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The Conversation: One Never Cannes Tell (2017 Edition)

It’s hard to believe, but we’re about five weeks away from the unveiling of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival lineup. After several months of awards campaigning in the US, which saw many of 2016’s titles soaking up significant adjudication (with items like Toni Erdmann, Elle, and The Salesman all remaining prominent fixtures on the awards circuit) while other titles are just making it to theatrical release (Personal Shopper), we’re about to reset the clock for a new crop of items from internationally renowned auteurs. With Pedro Almodovar announced as jury president, it will be interesting to see if he continues the trend of ambivalent Cannes juries who seem to be more interested in making political statements.

Speaking of Almodovar, it would seem his presence could cause a significant conflict of interest regarding Lucrecia Martel’s Zama, a film he produced. We’ve been awaiting Martel’s return for several years now, and her ambitious new feature may be forced into Un Certain Regard or potentially held for Venice 2017. Either way, it’s an unfortunate compromise. Other highly touted items may also be forced to skip the Croisette because they simply won’t be ready in time, so don’t hold your breath for the presence of Jean-Luc Godard, Leos Carax, or Carlos Reygadas.

However, many of the festival’s usual suspects are primed and ready to go, it would seem, and 2017 promises to be another auteur throw down. At the top of our list is the new film from two time Palme d’Or winner Michael Haneke, Happy End, which reunites his Amour stars Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert (her fourth collaboration with the director). We hope to see him joined by Abdellatif Kechiche with Mektoub is Mektoub, his first feature since 2013’s winner Blue is the Warmest Color. As usual, competition for French language slots will be fierce and this year is no exception for the number of local auteurs for Thierry Fremaux to sift through. We expect both Philippe Garrel (with L’amant d’un Jour) and Arnaud Desplechin (with Ismael’s Ghosts) to have a good chance of returning to the fold after they were both infamously locked out of the main competition back in 2015. Bruno Dumont, who has had his fair share of titles delegated to the sidelines despite winning multiple awards at the festival, was in competition last year with cannibal comedy Slack Bay, and returns this year with a musical about Joan of Arc, Jeannette. Other high profile projects include Michel Hazanavicius with Redoubtable, a portrait of Jean-Luc Godard, Xavier Beauvois with Les Gardiennes, and Laurent Cantet (who won in 2008 with The Class) with The Workshop. Robin Campillo, who co-wrote Cantent’s film, should also be ready with his own third feature 120 Beats Per Minute starring Adele Haenel (although this seems more likely to appear in Un Certain Regard or Directors’ Fortnight). Likewise, Mathieu Amalaric’s Barbara is a title likely to be bandied about as well.

Fremaux also has a number of high profile American auteurs/projects to choose from, including new features from Steven Soderbergh (Logan Lucky), Kathryn Bigelow’s Untitled Detroit Project, David Michod (War Machine), and Todd Haynes (Wonderstruck). Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk seems like the splashy, big budget kind of item Fremaux would also attempt to insert here. Actress Nicole Kidman could, potentially, be a triple threat in the main competition should her new films with Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and John Cameron Mitchell (How to Talk to Girls at Parties) all be ready and selected.

Other alumni with potential to return to the competition include Roman Polanski with Based on a True Story, Naomi Kawase with Hikari, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun with A Season in France, and Joachim Trier with Thelma. The 2017 edition could also excitingly feature dueling Russian language titles in the main competition, as Sergei Loznitsa should be ready with Dostoevsky adaptation A Gentle Creature and Andrey Zvyagintsev with his marital drama Loveless.

Less assured but not to be counted out are new items from Hong Sangsoo with Claire’s Camera. The South Korean auteur recently competed in Berlin with On the Beach Alone at Night, but he last competed at Cannes in 2012 with In Another Country starring Isabelle Huppert. Considering she appears in this project as well, it may very well premiere in competition. New films from Germany’s Fatih Akin (In the Fade) and Hungary’s Kornel Mundruczo (Superfluous Man) are also considerations. High profile projects from Sweden’s Ruben Ostlund (The Square starring Elisabeth Moss), Belgium’s Michael Roskam (Racer and the Jailbird), Mexico’s Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), and France’s Deniz Gamze Erguven (Kings, her English language debut headlined by Halle Berry) could also be making their first appearance in competition. As for Italy, Andrea Pallaoro’s The Whale starring Charlotte Rampling might be a consideration if the aim is not for Venice while a lack of other Italian auteurs on the horizon may also help.

As far as Special Screenings and Out of Competition slots, a mixture of high profile English language features will likely pop up here just before their domestic release in the US, such as Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant and Bong Joon-ho’s Okja. Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets could also be a good bet. This section is also reserved for auteur items, and perhaps Paolo Virzi’s The Leisure Seeker or Wim Wenders’ Submergence could be programmed here.

When it comes to predicting Un Certain Regard or Directors’ Fortnight, only superficial trends seem clear. Items locked out of the main competition tend to appear in either category unless they are held for competition in another festival, while other filmmakers seem to work their way up through the sidebars.

Directors’ Fortnight still tends to be more flexible in the allowance of genre items, so we’re hoping to see Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani secure their first entry on the Croisette with Let the Bodies Sunbathe! After storming Berlin with 45 Years, Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete seems likely, and new items from Lech Majewski (Valley of the Gods), Erick Zonca (Black River), Lisa Langseth (Euphoria), Florence Quentin (Bonne Pomme), Clio Barnard (Dark River), F.J. Ossang (9 Fingers), Gael Morel (Leg It), Robert Guediguian (The House by the Sea), Keren Yedaya (Red Fields), Guillaume Galliene (Maryline), Santiago Mitre (The Summit), Francois Girard (Hochelaga, Land of Souls), Denis Cote (Your Skin So Smooth) and Jacques Doillon (Rodin) could all be making an appearance somewhere. American indie helmers who’ve been to the Croisette beforehand in the Safdie Bros. (Good Time) and David Robert Mitchell (Under the Silver Lake) could be readied in time, while potential first-timers could include Sean Baker (The Florida Project) and Nicolas Pesce (Piercing). A new sci-fi film from Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Before We Vanish), a Gauguin biopic starring Vincent Cassel, and Lola Pater starring Fanny Ardant could also premiere in one of the sidebars.

We’re most excited to see how the festival might program some more outlandish and unpredictable items, like Serge Bozon’s latest, Madame Hyde, which reunites the director with Isabelle Huppert (following 2013’s superb Tip Top), or Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas’ werewolf drama Good Manners (they last appeared in Un Certain Regard with 2011’s Hard Labor). Also, if Ukrainian director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky is near completion with Luxembourg (his 2014 debut The Tribe took Critics’ Week by storm), we’re wondering where this item will land. Likewise, perennial favorite Lav Diaz should have his latest ready, When the Waves are Gone, and considering he won the Golden Lion in Venice and the Alfred Bauer Award in Berlin last year we’d assume a plum spot somewhere (previously Diaz was in the 2013 Un Certain Regard with Norte, the End of History). Nash Edgerton, meanwhile, has his yet to be titled thriller starring Charlize Theron, which could make an entrance in the program considering his short Bear competed for the Palme d’Or in 2011.

Even less easy to predict are the items programmed in Critics’ Week (reserved for debuts and sophomore features), although sometimes past alums reappear here. Trey Edward Shults (Krisha) could take sophomore effort It Comes at Night and Jonas Alexander Arnby (When Animals Dream) could do this as well with We Watched the Sun Disappear, but some higher profile debuts, should they be ready in time, might snag a slot. Natalia Garagiola with Temporada de Caza or Gabriel Amaral Almeida’s The Friendly Animal have been on our radar, while actors Jeremie and Yannick Renier make their directorial debut with Les Carnivores, which would be a splashy item in the Critics’ Week program. But it looks like we will have to wait until April 20th for the main competition unveiling and April 25th for Directors’ Fortnight.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is'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.

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