Cannes: A Preview

The 71st Cannes Film Festival gets underway next week and something feels a little different about this year’s event. To begin with, the critics will have to wait. For years, reviewers have always seen movies in advance of the red carpet premieres. But with the rise of social media, it’s meant that the filmmakers have often been forced to endure their evening premiere knowing just how their latest opus is being received by the world’s press. Great if it’s a critical hit; not much fun if it’s a flop. Now that’s all changed, with the premieres coming first.

The festival is also banning selfies on the red carpet (although the rule that women must wear high heels, which caused a furore a couple of years back, is still in force). But the ongoing row with Netflix remains a thorn in Cannes’ side. The streaming giant has withdrawn all its titles after the festival banned films that won’t play in cinemas from the competition. Films like Paul Greengrass’ Norway will now premiere in your living room rather than in Cannes.

Another intriguing aspect is the official selection. Cannes has never been beyond programming favoured directors in the past, whatever the quality of the film (the nadir in recent memory surely being Sean Penn’s The Last Face). But this year expected entrants like Mike Leigh’s 19th century-set Peterloo, Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers and Paolo Sorrentino’s Silvio Berlusconi tale Loro are absent. Only time will tell if these films were worthy of a Cannes berth or not.

Of course some old friends are making a return, notably Lars von Trier, the Danish director who was declared ‘persona non grata’ by the festival seven years ago after making some ill-advised comments about being a Nazi. He’s back with The House That Jack Built, a typically controversial sounding tale of a serial killer, played by Matt Dillon and told over a dozen years. It’s out of competition but that won’t stop it from being the most talked-about film in Cannes.

In competition, the hot titles include David Robert Mitchell’s Under The Silver Lake, which looks to do for the neo-noir what his brilliant It Follows did for the horror movie. Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces will be another one to watch; the director of The White Balloon – which won the Camera D’Or in Cannes in 1995 – was arrested by Iranian authorities in 2010 under charges of propaganda and has been able to travel. He still faces a potential prison sentence.

Similarly, Kirill Serebrennikov’s film Leto will also play in competition, possibly without the director in attendance. His story about the life of Soviet rock star Viktor Tsoi and the Leningrad rock underground scene in the 1980s is his first competition entry in Cannes, but he’s currently under house arrest in Russia after being accused of embezzling state funds allocated for a theatre project. It seems this year’s Cannes will be a case of toasting absent friends.

The Cannes Film Festival runs 8-19 May. For more details, visit Festival Cannes.

James Mottram

1. David Robert Mitchell’s Under The Silver Lake.