Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash” and Jim Mickle’s “Cold in July,” two well-received American dramas that world premiered at the recent Sundance Film Festival, are among the 19 features set to screen in the 46th annual Directors’ Fortnight sidebar at Cannes.
Selected by delegate general Edouard Waintrop in his third year at the helm, the Fortnight, a long-running parallel program to the official selection, will also fly the U.S. flag with the world premiere of Frederick Wiseman’s documentary “National Gallery,” a portrait of the London museum’s day-to-day operations, and a special screening of Tobe Hooper’s original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” in a newly restored version.
As the winner of both the grand jury prize and the audience award in Sundance’s U.S. dramatic competition (where it was snapped up by Sony Classics), “Whiplash” had been widely expected to receive the Un Certain Regard berth typically reserved for Park City’s most popular titles, including last year’s “Fruitvale Station,” 2012’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and 2009’s “Precious.” In a moderate break with tradition, Chazelle’s pic will make its international premiere in the Fortnight, which has proven reliably friendly to American films, genre films and American genre films over the years.
“‘Whiplash’ is a Hitchcockian film. We, as audiences, don’t know where the movie is headed but we understand the director does. Chazelle masters both the mise-en-scene and the script and keeps us in suspense from the beginning to the end,” Waintrop told Variety.
The other Sundance entry set to make its offshore bow in the sidebar is “Cold in July,” Mickle’s thriller starring Michael C. Hall, which will screen in Cannes just a week before its May 23 Stateside release through IFC Films. It’ll be the second time Mickle has bounced from Park City to Directors’ Fortnight, as he did with his 2013 arthouse cannibal thriller “We Are What We Are.”
“‘Cold in July’ plays with three subgenres of the cop movie — it’s a crazy and galvanizing movie,” Waintrop said.
The sidebar will open with “Girlhood” (“Bande de filles”), French writer-director Celine Sciamma’s third feature and her second to premiere at Cannes, after her 2007 Un Certain Regard-preemed debut, “Water Lilies.” Sciamma leads a typically strong but not overly dominant Gallic contingent that includes first-timer Thomas Cailley with “Fighters” (“Les Combattants”); Jean-Charles Hue with “Eat Your Bones” (“Mange tes morts”); and Cannes veteran Bruno Dumont (“Camille Claudel, 1915”), whose four-part tube series, “Li’l Quinquin” (“P’tit Quinquin”), will join Wiseman’s “National Gallery” in Special Screenings.
“Quinquin,” first created as a four-episode series for Franco-German network Arte, runs three hours and 20 minutes. “This film is so different from what Dumont is known for and I think it will create a big surprise and lots of laughter,” said Waintrop, who described the movie as “a burlesque cop movie with cows and corpses.”
Besides France and U.S., however, the best-represented country in Directors’ Fortnight is the U.K. Adding to the sense of a banner year for Brits on the Croisette (with Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Andrew Hulme in the official selection), the sidebar will unspool John Boorman’s long-awaited Korean War-set drama, “Queen and Country”; debutant Daniel Wolfe’s “Catch Me Daddy” which Waintrop depicts as “thriller with biblical accents” about the fate of a mixed couple in Bradford; and, in the program’s closing-night slot, Matthew Warchus’ 1984-set politically-engaged ensembler, “Pride.”
Israel, one of the festival’s better-represented countries with Keren Yedaya’s “Harcheck mi headro” in Un Certain Regard and Nadav Lapid’s “The Kindergarten Teacher” in Critics’ Week, will have two titles in Directors’ Fortnight: “Gett: Le proces de Viviane Amsalem,” a courtroom drama from Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz (who also stars in the film), and “Next to Her,” a debut feature from Asaf Korman.
Waintrop described “Viviane Amsalem” as a Kafka-esque film, reminiscent of “The Trial” in particular, about the absurdity of a system where the Gett (divorce) can only be given by the husband. “In this film, we see the characters — a wife who struggles to regain her freedom and her husband — who are entangled in this system,” he said.
“Next to Her,” which centers on a woman’s relationship with her mentally ill sister and her lover, is, along with “Whiplash,” “the second Hitchcockian film we have selected,” Waintrop said. “There’s a real suspense and a wrongly accused character.”
Elsewhere in the sidebar, the festival’s generally slim Asian presence will be bolstered by Nipponese veteran Isao Takahata’s animated “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” and South Korean helmer Kim Seong-hun’s action-packed thriller “A Hard Day.”
Rounding out the selection are Belgian helmer Fabrice Du Welz’s “Alleluia”; Argentine director Diego Lerman’s “Refugiado”; Australian filmmaker Zak Hilditch’s “These Final Hours”; and Canadian director Stephane Lafleur’s “Tu dors Nicole.”
Waintrop has had a strong track record since taking the helm of Directors’ Fortnight in 2012. Some of his discoveries include Guillaume Gallienne’s “Me, Myself and Mum,” Clio Barnard’s “The Selfish Giant,” Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin” and Pablo Larrain’s “No.”
Waintrop said the process of getting films was particularly difficult this year. “Thierry Fremaux, (Critics’ Week a.d.) Charles Tesson and I wanted many of the same movies. Add to that the fact that films arrived later than usual — sales agents were weighting their options, looking for the best bid.”
The Directors’ Fortnight runs May 15-25.
2014 CANNES DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT LINEUP
“Girlhood” (Celine Sciamma, France). With this drama about a group of teenage girl rebels, Sciamma completes a thematic trilogy of films centered around adolescent sexuality that began with her 2007 debut, “Water Lilies” (which screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes), and continued with her 2011 Berlinale entry, “Tomboy.” (Sales: Films Distribution)
“Alleluia” (Fabrice Du Welz, Belgium-France) Lola Duenas and Laurent Lucas play two lethal lovers inspired by American serial-killer couple Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, whose crime spree in the late ’40s previously inspired the films “Deep Crimson” and “Lonely Hearts.” It’s the fourth feature from Belgian genre maven Du Welz after “Calvaire,” “Vinyan” and “Colt 45.” (Sales: SND)
“Catch Me Daddy” (Daniel Wolfe, U.K.) The British musicvideo/commercials helmer makes his feature debut with this Yorkshire-lensed thriller about a young couple on the run, starring newcomer Sameena Jabeen Ahmed. (Sales: Altitude Film Sales)
“Cold in July” (Jim Mickle, U.S.) Starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson, Mickle’s third feature was described by Variety critic Scott Foundas as “a superior piece of Texas pulp fiction … an ultra-violent, grimly funny hybrid of home-invasion thriller and revenge Western.” (Sales: Memento Films)
“Eat Your Bones” (Jean-Charles Hue, France) A teenager must choose between his gangster heritage and his Christian beliefs in this coming-of-age road drama from Hue (“La BM du Seigneur”). (Sales: Capricci Films)
“Fighters” (Thomas Cailley, France) Young thesps Adele Haenel and Kevin Azais star in this first feature from shorts helmer Cailley. (Sales: BAC Films)
“Gett: Le proces de Viviane Amsalem” (Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz, France-Israel-Germany) Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz), a key character from the sibling filmmakers’ first two films, “To Take a Wife” and “7 Days” (which screened in Critics’ Week in 2008), fights to obtain a divorce from Israel’s rabbinical court in this trilogy-capping drama. (Sales: Films Distribution)
“A Hard Day” (Kim Seong-hun, South Korea) Lee Seon-gyoon plays a man whose dream of becoming a successful cop is derailed when he causes a fatal hit-and-run in this crime thriller.
“National Gallery” (Frederick Wiseman, France-U.S.) Barely a year after his Venice-preemed opus “At Berkeley,” the prolific documentarian turns his gaze on employees and visitors at the London art museum. Wiseman was previously in Directors’ Fortnight with 2010’s “Boxing Gym.”
“Next to Her” (Asaf Korman, Israel) Winner of the work-in-progress competition at the recent Thessaloniki Film Festival, this feature directing debut from Israeli editor Korman (“God’s Neighbors,” “The Slut”) follows a 27-year-old woman trying to take care of her younger, mentally challenged sister.
“Queen and Country” (John Boorman, Ireland-U.K.) The British helmer dramatizes his military service in the early ’50s in this long-gestating drama starring David Thewlis, Richard E. Grant and Caleb Landry Jones — a sequel of sorts to Boorman’s semi-autobiographical 1987 film, “Hope and Glory.” Boorman has won the director prize at Cannes twice, for 1970’s “Leo the Last” and 1998’s “The General.” (Sales: Le Pacte)
“Refugiado” (Diego Lerman, Argentina-France-Germany) Argentine helmer Lerman follows his 2010 Directors’ Fortnight selection, “The Invisible Eye,” with this film about a 4-year-old boy who arrives at a women’s shelter with his mother and a small plastic dinosaur.
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” (Isao Takahata, Japan). Studio Ghibli’s animated retelling of a 10th-century Japanese myth, from septuagenarian master Isao Takahata (“Grave of the Fireflies”), has been a major local hit with more than $20 million grossed to date. Variety critic Maggie Lee called the film “a visionary tour de force” that “embraces fantasy and abstract symbolism to wondrous effect.”
“These Final Hours” (Zak Hilditch, Australia) Nathan Phillips (“Wolf Creek”) plays a man racing against time to escape a fiery apocalypse in Hilditch’s debut feature, which won a critics’ prize for top Australian film at last year’s Melbourne Film Festival. (Sales: Celluloid Nightmares)
“Tu dors Nicole” (Stephane Lafleur, Canada) A 22-year-old woman’s quiet summer at home takes an unexpected turn when her older brother shows up with his music group in Quebecois helmer Lafleur’s third feature, after 2007’s “Continental, un film sans fusil” and 2011’s “Familiar Grounds.”
“Whiplash” (Damien Chazelle, U.S.) Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons play a talented young drummer and his ferocious instructor, respectively, in Chazelle’s highly lauded sophomore feature, which Variety critic Peter Debruge hailed as “a stellar career-starter” that “demolishes the cliches of the musical-prodigy genre.” (Sales: Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions)
“Li’l Quinquin” (Bruno Dumont, France) A detective yarn set in the French village of Boulogne, this four-part, 200-minute Arte miniseries reps a first foray into television for the Gallic provocateur, as well as a return to Directors’ Fortnight, which presented his 1997 debut, “Life of Jesus.” Dumont has twice won the Grand Prix at Cannes, for 1999’s “Humanite” and 2006’s “Flanders”; his 2011 film, “Outside Satan,” premiered in Un Certain Regard.
“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (Tobe Hooper, U.S.) Recently unveiled at the SXSW Film Festival, this 90-minute restored version of Hooper’s seminal 1974 horror-thriller will roll out theatrically in the U.S. this summer via MPI/Dark Sky Films in honor of the film’s 40th anniversary.
“Pride” (Matthew Warchus, U.K.) Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Dominic West star in this period dramedy about a group of LGBT activists raising money to support striking mineworkers during the Margaret Thatcher era. It’s the first bigscreen feature since 1999’s “Simpatico” for Warchus, a theater director (“Matilda,” “The Norman Conquests”) who won a Tony for helming 2009’s “God of Carnage.” (Sales: Pathe)