UPDATE: After last year’s cancellation, the Cannes Film Festival is expected to be back with a bang in July. The 2021 edition should be in no shortage of major auteurs, female directors and glamorous stars.
In addition to the already announced fest opener “Annette,” Leos Carax’s musical romance with Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, and Wes Anderson’s star-studded “The French Dispatch,” another high-profile film on Cannes’ radar is Sean Penn’s drama “Flag Day” in which the actor stars as a father living a double life as a con man and bank robber in order to provide for his daughter. Penn stars alongside his daughter Dylan Penn, his son Hopper Penn, Josh Brolin and Miles Teller.
Other films are being talked about as Cannes possibilities: Jane Campion’s Montana-set “The Power of The Dog,” about two brothers pitted against each other, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst; and Paul Schrader’s revenge thriller “The Card Counter,” with Oscar Isaac and Willem Dafoe. Schrader’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated “First Reformed,” “The Card Counter” — being by handled by Focus Features in the U.S. and Universal Studios internationally — stars Isaac as a gambler whose spartan lifestyle moving from one casino to the next is shattered when he is approached by an angry young man seeking help to exact revenge on a military colonel. Although “The Power of The Dog” is handled by Netflix globally, the movie could possibly play out of competition at Cannes, or even in competition if the streamer works with a local distributor.
Both “The Power of The Dog” and “The Card Counter” have been invited to Venice, but are first waiting to see if Cannes pulls off the festival amid the pandemic, Variety has learned.
Fremaux has also been hoping to lure Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Soggy Bottom,” a film set in 1970s San Fernando Valley starring Benny Safdie, Joseph Cross and Bradley Cooper (in a small part). The artistic director was recently in talks with Universal Studios, but the movie’s new release date at the end of the year suggests it’s a more distant possibility at this point.
Strongly-tipped titles for Cannes include “Official Competition,” a comedy reuniting Spanish stars Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. The Spanish-language film, directed by the Argentinian duo Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat, has also been invited to compete at Venice, according to an insider.
Among the several films that were in the running for last year’s festival and are either confirmed or nearly confirmed for the 2021 edition are Nanni Moretti’s “Three Floors,” a Rome-set adaptation of Israeli writer Eshkol Nevo’s novel with Anna Bonaiuto, Riccardo Scamarcio and Alba Rohrwacher; Kirill Serebrennikov’s (“Leto”) “Petrov’s Flu,” about a day in the life of a comicbook artist and his family in post-Soviet Russia; and Paul Verhoeven’s “Benedetta” with Virginie Efira starring as a lesbian nun in Renaissance-era Italy. There’s also Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s English-language debut “Memoria” with Tilda Swinton starring as an orchid farmer visiting her ill sister in Bogota where she is bothered by increasingly loud bangs that prevent her from getting any sleep.
After a year of subdued festival activity, Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux has a bounty of other anticipated movies from big-name auteurs to choose from.
Weerasethakul could be one of a handful of Palme d’Or-winning directors in the pipeline for a comeback on the French Riviera, along with Ruben Östlund with “Triangle of Sadness,” a contemporary satire with Woody Harrelson starring as a rabid Marxist who is the captain of a cruise for the super-rich that sinks, leaving survivors, including a fashion model celebrity couple, marooned on an island; Jacques Audiard’s black-and-white film “Paris, 13th District,“ based on New Yorker cartoonist Adrian Tomine’s “Killing and Dying,” and revolving around four young adults who are friends, sometimes lovers, and often both; and two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi’s Farsi-language drama “A Hero,” whose plot is kept secret. All of these films are being presented to Cannes’ selection committee.
As in 2019, which saw Mati Diop and Celine Sciamma shine in competition, the 2021 competition roster could include several strong French female helmers, notably Julia Ducournau with the horror drama “Titane,” her follow-up to “Raw,” with Vincent Lindon starring as a father whose son resurfaces at an airport after having disappeared for 10 years; Claire Denis with “Feu,” which stars Juliette Binoche as a woman caught between two men — her long-time partner (Lindon) and his best friend; Mia Hansen-Løve with “Bergman Island,” a a supernatural melodrama with Mia Wasikowska, Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps, about a couple of American filmmakers who travel to the Swedish island of Faro to write their respective films; and Emmanuelle Bercot (“Standing Tall“) with “De Son Vivant,” a drama spanning a year in the lives of a terminally ill man, a grieving mother, a doctor and a nurse, starring Catherine Deneuve, Benoît Magimel and Cécile de France.
This year’s official selection, or even the competition, could also boast “Where Is Anne Frank,” a long-gestated animated feature by Ari Folman, whose 2008 doc “Waltz With Bashir” debuted in competition. Folman’s team was granted access to the Frank family archives. The film follows the story of Kitty, Anne Frank’s imaginary friend, who wakes up today in Amsterdam after a miracle, and travels across Europe to find out what happened to Anne during the last seven months of her life.
Other movies from renowned filmmakers that are well-positioned to world premiere at Cannes 2021 include Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World”; Catherine Corsini’s “La Fracture,” and Francois Ozon’s (“Summer of 85”) “Tout s’est bien passé,” a euthanasia-themed film based on Emmanuelle Bernheim’s book by the same name, with Sophie Marceau. A few French movies are expected to open at Venice, however, notably Xavier Giannoli’s “Lost Illusions,” an adaptation of Honoré de Balzac’s literary classic; and “Bruno Dumont’s “France” with Lea Seydoux and Blanche Gardin, about a celebrity journalist whose life is turned upside down by a freak car accident.
Cannes Film Festival’s official selection will be unveiled on May 27. The festival, which is scheduled to run July 6-17, said it was planning its next edition “with confidence and determination” while being “mindful of the evolution of the public health situation in Europe and across the world, and the reopening of cultural venues mid-May.”
While the country is currently on semi-lockdown with a curfew set at 7 p.m., President Emmanuel Macron recently said during a televised address that some cultural venues could reopen in mid-May. According to several sources, cinemas could potentially reopen between May 15-20 with a seating capacity limited to 35%. The limitation would be gradually lifted to 65% and 100% depending on the evolution of the pandemic. Cannes is a traditional launchpad for movies, and some theatrical releases are already being planned by distributors, notably UGC with “Annette” set for a simultaneous release on July 6.
After a very slow start, the pace of the vaccine roll out has gotten much quicker in recent weeks, which is bringing some optimism throughout the country. As of April 22, 20.1% of people in France have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to Bloomberg.
The festival is working hand-in-hand with Cannes authorities to hammer out health protocols. Some health measures being studied include setting up testing stations throughout the city, as well as around the Palais des Festivals, the main moviegoing hub.
As previously announced, Spike Lee will preside over the competition jury.