New movies from Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”), Jean-Luc Godard (“The Image Book”) and Oscar-winning “Ida” director Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”) join previously announced “Solo: A Star Wars Story” at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, making for a lineup that’s considerably less starry — at least by Hollywood standards — than in years past.
Apart from Lee, films with American connections are few and far between. “It Follows” director David Robert Mitchell will present his 140-minute thriller “Under the Silver Lake”; Egyptian-made “Yomeddine” was directed by NYU Tisch graduate A.B. Shawky; and Brazilian director Joe Penna (whose English-language “Arctic” will bow in the Midnight section) resides in Los Angeles.
At the press conference in Paris, Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux explained that his programming team deliberately selected work by lesser-known and in some cases unheard-of directors. Conspicuous absences include a number of “the usual suspects” — established directors such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Mike Leigh to whom Cannes typically invites high-profile spots for each new film. Also missing is Naomi Kawase from a lineup that is otherwise heavy with Asian directors, including a pair of Iranians: Jafar Panahi with “Three Faces” and Asghar Farhadi, who made opening-night selection “Everybody Knows” (starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem) in Spain.
The competition program includes just three female filmmakers, prompting Frémaux to reiterate his position that “the films that were selected were chosen for their own intrinsic qualities,” not the gender of their directors. Acknowledging the importance of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, he said, “The world will never be the same again … and we will question our own practices about the gender parity” in salaries and jury representation, but stressed that “there will never be a selection with a positive discrimination for women.”
Frémaux countered criticisms that the festival may be losing its power to attract high-profile films, unconvincingly suggesting that prize-winning directors Xavier Dolan and Jacques Audiard had not turned down a formal invitation to screen in Cannes, but rather, were still editing their respective films, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” and “The Sisters Brothers.” And yet, he admitted that American companies in particular can get nervous about how a film’s reception in Cannes can impact its awards and box office chances, admitting, “When you are on a strategy of a late [fall] release, Cannes might not be the ideal place to show a film.”
Even a cursory survey of past lineups reveals that many films chosen for official selection already have French distribution, which is frequently timed to the days and weeks immediately following the festival. This phenom illustrates not only the way French companies leverage Cannes for publicity, but also the enormous influence they wield over the selection of such films in the first place — nowhere more evident this year than in the exclusion of Netflix from competition.
Frémaux explained that he had personally appealed to Netflix honchos Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos not to pull their films from the festival, and yet, under pressure from the French industry (where a law insists upon a three-year window between theatrical release and streaming), Cannes was forced to exclude them from competition unless Netflix agreed to sell theatrical rights to a French distributor. “We made offers on two films owned by Netflix,” said Frémaux, “and there were candidates for the theatrical distribution of those films,” including the restoration of Orson Welles’ “The Other Side of the Wind,” which Frémaux sorely wanted to invite.
Several more movies may be announced in the days to come, including a couple midnight screenings. Asked about whether Lars von Trier (whose “The House That Jack Built” would be a likely candidate) is still persona non grata with the festival, Frémaux enigmatically replied, “We will answer in a few days.”
At just 18 titles (including Farhadi’s opening-night film), the competition lineup is as lean as it’s been in decades, although it should be noted that 2017 Palme d’Or winner “The Square” was a late addition to last year’s lineup, so Frémaux may have other cards up his sleeve. He specifically hinted that the festival would have liked to invite Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” which is currently tied up in a legal dispute, and said discussions are still underway with Paolo Sorrentino about his two-part “Loro,” the first half of which opens in Italy before Cannes.
Scheduled to kick off a month after the inaugural television-focused Cannes Series event, the festival will unspool from May 8-19 — which is the earliest the festival has taken place in more than 20 years. The parallel Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week programs will take place during the same dates, but technically fall outside the “official selection,” and as such, will announce their lineups later in April.
2018 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP
“Everybody Knows” (Asghar Farhadi)
“Asako I & II” AKA “Netemo Sametemo” (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
“Ash Is Purest White” (Jia Zhang-Ke)
“At War” (Stéphane Brizé)
“BlacKkKlansman” (Spike Lee)
“Burning” (Lee Chang-dong)
“Capernaum” (Nadine Labaki)
“Cold War” (Pawel Pawlikowski)
“Dogman” (Matteo Garrone)
“Girls of the Sun” (Eva Husson)
“The Image Book” (Jean-Luc Godard)
“Leto” AKA “Summer” (Kirill Serebrennikov)
“My Bitter Land” AKA “Lazzaro Felice” (Alice Rohrwacher)
“Shoplifters” (Kore-Eda Hirokazu)
“Sorry Angel” (Christophe Honoré)
“Three Faces” (Jafar Panahi)
“Under the Silver Lake” (David Robert Mitchell)
“Yomeddine” (A.B. Shawky)
UN CERTAIN REGARD
“Angel Face” (Vanessa Filho)
“Border” (Ali Abbasi) — PICTURED
“El Angel” (Luis Ortega)
“Euphoria” (Valeria Golino)
“Friend” (Wanuri Kahiu)
“The Gentle Indifference of the World” (Adilkhan Yerzhanov)
“Girl” (Lukas Dhont)
“The Harvesters” (Etienne Kallos)
“In My Room” (Ulrich Köhler)
“Little Tickles” (Andréa Bescond & Eric Métayer)
“Manto” (Nandita Das)
“My Favorite Fabric” (Gaya Jiji)
“Sextape” AKA “On Your Knees, Guys” (Antoine Desrosières)
Sofia” (Meyem Benm’Barek)
OUT OF COMPETITION
“Le Grand Bain” (Gilles Lellouche)
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” (Ron Howard)
“Arctic” (Joe Penna)
“Gongjak” AKA “The Spy Gone North” (Yoon Jong-Bing)
“Dead Souls” (Wang Bing)
“La Traversée” (Romain Goupil)
“O Grande Circo Místico” (Carlo Diegues)
“Pope Francis – A Man of His Word” (Wim Wenders)
“The State Against Mandela and the Others” (Nicolas Champeaux & Gilles Porte)
“10 Years in Thailand” (Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnon Sriphol & Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
“To the Four Winds” (Michel Toesca)