After the 2020 Cannes Film Festival was canceled by the pandemic and the 2021 edition curtailed – even kisses were banned on the red carpet – the lavish French Riviera movie night is set to return with a festival that promises to to be something like normal.
Or at least Cannes’ very peculiar mark of normality, where for 12 days evening wear and movies mingle in sun-kissed splendour, timed standing ovations stretch for minutes and director names like “Kore-eda” and “Denis” are spoken with a hushed reverence.
What passes for the usual in Cannes has never been particularly ordinary, but it has proven remarkably resistant to the fluctuations of the weather. Since its first festival, in 1946 in the wake of the Second World War, Cannes has established itself as a maximalist spectacle that honors world cinema and the glamor of the Côte d’Azur. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Cannes.
“I hope Cannes is back to normal now,” said Ruben Östlund, who returns this year with the social satire “Triangle of Sadness,” a sequel to his 2017 Palme d’Or-winning film “The Square.”
“It’s a fantastic place if you’re a filmmaker. You feel like you have the attention of the film world,” Östlund adds. “To hear the buzz that’s going on, people are talking about the different movies. I hope they’re talking about your movie.
This year’s Cannes, which opens Tuesday with the premiere of Michel Hazanavicius’ zombie flick “Z,” will not only be against the late ebbs of the pandemic and the rising tide of streaming, but also against the greatest war that Europe has known since the Second World War, in Ukraine. Started as a product of war – the festival was originally launched as a French rival to the Venice Film Festival, with which Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler had begun to interfere – this year’s Cannes will once again resound with the echoes of a not so far- far from conflicts.
Cannes organizers have banned Russians with government ties from attending the festival. Several films by prominent Ukrainian filmmakers will be screened, including Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary “The Natural History of Destruction”. Footage shot by Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius before he was killed in Mariupol in April will also be shown by his fiancée, Hanna Bilobrova.
At the same time, Cannes will welcome more Hollywood star power than it has in three years. Joseph Kosinski’s pandemic-delayed “Top Gun: Maverick” will screen shortly before it opens in theaters. Tom Cruise will walk the mat and sit down for a rare career-spanning interview.
“Every director’s dream is to be able to go to Cannes one day,” says Kosinski. “To go out there with this film and with Tom, to screen it there and be part of the retrospective that they’re going to do for him, it’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience.
Warner Bros. will premiere “Elvis”, by Baz Luhrmann, with Austin Butler and Tom Hanks. George Miller, last at Cannes with ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, will make his debut in his fantasy epic ‘The Thousand Years of Longing’, starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton. Ethan Coen will present his first film without his brother Joel, “Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind”, a documentary about the rock n’ roll legend made with archival footage. Also debuting: James Gray’s “Armageddon Time,” a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale set in New York City starring Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong.
Far from all Hollywood will be present. Cannes regulations regarding theatrical release have essentially excluded streaming services from the competition’s lineup from which the Palme d’Or winner is chosen. This year’s jury is chaired by French actor Vincent Lindon.
Last year’s Palme winner, the explosive “Titanium” by Julia Ducournau, which starred Lindon, was only the second Cannes honor awarded to a filmmaker. This year, five films directed by women are in competition for the Palme, a record for Cannes but a low percentage compared to other international festivals.
This year’s lineup is also full of festival veterans and former Palme winners, including Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Broker”), Christian Mungiu’s (“RMN”) and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes (“Tori et Lokita”). Iconoclastic filmmakers like Claire Denis (“Stars at Noon”), David Cronenberg (“Crimes of the Future”) and Park Chan-wook (“Decision to Leave”) are also in the running for the Palme, as is Kelly Reichardt, who works again with Michelle Williams in “Showing Up”.
Even with a solid roster of Cannes stars, how far can the festival really go back to the good old days? Last year’s light-on-crowds edition included masking inside theaters and regular COVID-19 testing for attendees. He still produced some of the most acclaimed films of the year, including “Drive My Car”, “The Worst Person in the World” and “A Hero”. Cannes remains an unrivaled platform for the best in cinema, while remaining sensitive to criticism of representation.
What isn’t expected to return anytime soon is the same amount of partying that characterized the years when Harvey Weinstein was a ubiquitous figure at the festival. COVID-19 concerns have not gone away. Participants will not be tested and are strongly encouraged to wear a mask. Few non-streaming companies have the budgets for lavish parties. The crowds will be back in Cannes but to what extent?
“It’s going to be different than it’s ever been,” says Sony Pictures Classic co-chairman and longtime Cannes regular Tom Bernard. “Are they going to have parties?” Will they have COVID concerns? Or is everyone going to go in there and try to ignore things? »
Bernard noticed that certain practices on the Cannes market, where film distribution rights are bought and resold, remain virtual. Early meetings with vendors, in which executives and producers typically hop between hotels on the Croisette, largely took place over Zoom ahead of the festival, he says. The conclusion of agreements has become more targeted. Cannes, known for being both noble and frivolous, may have become a bit more understated.
“It’s a reworking of an event that has always been kind of the same, in every way,” Bernard says. “The routine, I think, will change.”
One thing that can be counted on with absolute certainty at Cannes is the frequent and ardent overtures to the primacy of the big screen, despite the profound changes underway in the film industry. Some films, like Östlund, starring Woody Harrelson, hope to straddle the disparate cinematic worlds that collide at Cannes.
“The goal we set ourselves,” says Östlund, “was to combine the best parts of American cinema with European cinema, to try to do something really entertaining and at the same time thought-provoking.”