Cannes Film Festival 2019: Official Competition Selection

Cannes 2019 PosterA day ago the Cannes Film Festival unveiled its Official Competition selection, and I thought I would comment on some films that were selected to compete in the main category. I will comment on roughly half of them – nine out of nineteen, and that does not mean that others are not great or will not win and become big, and I am merely guided by my own personal interests. The first thought is that I am impressed that the selection is varied (a comedy, a science-fiction film, a war movie, a period drama and a psychological thriller are all competing alongside other drama films), and I am also pleased to see Pedro Almódovar, Terrence Malick, Ken Loach, Dardenne Brothers and Xavier Dolan competing in the same category. The expected name of Quentin Tarantino and his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was not announced because the film is still, apparently, being edited. The films below are listed in no particular order.

I. Pain & Glory by Pedro AlmodóvarPain and Glory Poster

This film by Almodóvar stars Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, and is about a film director who “reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him” (IMDb). I love Almodóvar, but he has not been too even in quality regarding his latest films – though I thought The Skin I Live In (2011) was great, his film I’m So Excited! (2013) was misguided. It is nice to see Almodóvar pairing again with his muse – Penélope Cruz, and something tells me this movie could be good since the director again is in the territory of drama. The trailer certainly looks both artful and moving, and perhaps comparisons will be drawn with Federico Fellini’s 8/12 (1963). 

II. Parasite by Bong Joon-ho Parasite Film Poster

The synopsis of this movie, which comes from the director of Okja (2017), is as follows: “Ki-taek and his unemployed family…take a peculiar interest in the Park family, which leads them to get entangled in an unexpected incident” (IMDb). This movie looks interesting to me and the story is definitely something I love to see on screen – it is marketed as drama, but I also see in this trailer some psychological thriller elements and doses of the strange and the unexplained. South Korean cinema has certainly shined in recent years with excellence and bravery (see the work of Chan-wook Park (The Handmaiden (2016)) or Chang-dong Lee (Burning (2018), a movie I criticised, but found beautiful regardless)). 

III. Matthias & Maxime by Xavier Dolan

Now, Xavier Dolan, what are we going to do with you? All kinds of emotion run through me when I think of that name. For me, he is either totally brilliant (Laurence Anyways (2012) or pretty bad, actually (The Death and Life of John F. Donovan (2018)). Dolan’s very “personal” cinema may not appeal to everyone, but it is always artful, experimental and emotional. Dolan is also an actor and the fact that he plays one of the lead roles in his newest film may either be a bad or a good thing. I hope the new film will not be too self-indulgent and Dolan will try to go out of his comfort zone, though looking at the title this seems unlikely. 

IV. Portrait Of a Lady On Fire by Céline Sciamma

Since I heard about this period drama some months previously, I have been very curious about it and am now glad to see it made into the selection. Portrait of A Lady on Fire does have an interesting story: “Brittany, France, 1760. Marianne, a painter, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Heloise, a lady who has just left the convent. Heloise is a reluctant bride to be and Marianne must paint her without her knowing…Intimacy and attraction grow between the two women…” (mk2films). I love that it is set in Brittany, France and stars a talented cast, among which are Adèle Haenel (The Unknown Girl (2016), 120 Beats Per Minute (2017)) and Valeria Golino (Rain Man (1988)). This movie is also from the director of Tomboy (2011) and Girlhood (2014), and the writer behind animation My Life as a Courgette (2016), so there is the expectation to meet. For my list of great films that feature paintings, see here.

The Dead Don't Die PosterV. The Dead Don’s Die by Jim Jarmusch

This comedy/horror film by Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), Paterson (2016))) will open the festival, and the premise here is that “the peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves” (IMDb). I love the idea of a “supernatural” comedy with dark humour. I am a bit of a fan of Shaun of the Dead (2004), which has some of the most hilarious film scenes I have ever seen, and I believe The Dead Don’t Die will have some of this very funny vibe too. The cast is also good: Chloe Sevigny, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and Caleb Landry Jones (Antiviral (2012)), and even Tom Waits and Selena Gomez found their way into this film.

Frankie PosterVI. Frankie by Ira Sachs 

I am not too familiar with the work of Ira Sachs (though I have heard of her movie Love is Strange (2014), which includes among its cast Alfred Molina and John Lithgow), but if Frankie has magnificent Isabelle Huppert (Elle (2016), The Piano Teacher (2001)) in it, it seals the deal for me and I am going to watch it. The story is also intriguing enough: “three generations grappling with a life-changing experience during one day of a vacation in Sintra, Portugal, a historic town known for its dense gardens and fairy-tale villas and palaces” (IMDb). I love in particular that Huppert plays the title role, and the film also stars Jeremie Renier (L’Amant Double (2017) and Greg Kinnear (You’ve Got Mail (1998)) – that combination sounds both dramatic and fun.

VII. A Hidden Life by Terrence Malick

This movie by Terrence Malick’s changed its title. We had “Radegund” and now we have “A Hidden Life“. In this movie, “the Austrian Franz Jagerstatter, a conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Nazis in the WWII” (IMDb). I am not into war movies generally, but I sometimes I love them, an example is Hacksaw Ridge (2016) (which also features a conscientious objector), so I am anticipating this one as well and it will be Malick after all, event though he apparently did not use the services of his usual cinematographer. The film is now known as featuring the last performances of Michael Nyqvist and Bruno Ganz, and, perhaps, given the subject, comparisons will be drawn with Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998).

VIII. Sorry We Missed You by Ken Loach

After masterful I, Daniel Blake [2016], which won Palme d’Or in 2016, I am anticipating Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You, which will also deal with working class struggles in modern Britain. This time the premise will involve “a hard-up delivery driver and his wife [who] struggle to get by in modern-day England” (IMDb).

IX. Little Joe by Jessica Hausner 

I could be talking here about the Dardenne’s brothers dealing with extremist Islam in Young Ahmed, but instead I am talking about lesser known Jessica Hausner and her film Little Joe. The premise really intrigued me: “A genetically-engineered plant scatters its seeds and seems to cause uncanny changes on living creatures. The afflicted appear strange, as if they were replaced – especially for those, who are close to them. Or is it all just imagination?” (IMDb). The book/film The Day of the Triffids somehow comes to mind, and I would love to see how this unusual science-fiction element involving plants will play out on screen. The film will star Emily Beecham and Ben Whishaw (The Lobster (2015)).

Other films that are selected to compete as part of the official competition are Young Ahmed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Oh Mercy by Arnaud Desplechin, The Traitor by Marco Bellocchio, Atlantique by Mati Diop, Sibyl by Justine Triet, It Must Be Heaven by Elia Suleiman, Bacurau by Kleber Mendonca, Filho & Juliano Dornelles, The Whistlers by Corneliu Porumboiu, Les Misérables by Ladj Ly and The Wild Goose Lake by Diao Yinan. 

Are you excited to see any of the films listed? What are your impression of the official selection films?

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12 thoughts on “Cannes Film Festival 2019: Official Competition Selection

  1. The Dead Don’t Die looks like it should be fun and it has a fantastic cast. Everyone I showed the trailer to was really excited.

    Agreed on Almodovar.

    No Japanese films but the Asian ones come from auteurs worth watching, not least Bong Joon-ho whose filmography is incredible. The trailer for Parasite is really good.

    If you haven’t seen Diao Yinan’s film Black Coal, Thin Ice, give it a go.

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  2. I’m really excited about the new movies by Jim Jarmusch and Ken Loach! I already watched the last one by Almodóvar, and the only thing I can tell you (apart from redirecting you to the review I wrote on my blog) is that if you love his cinema, you’ll probably love this Pain and glory!

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  3. We are pretty much on the same page as to which Cannes films we are looking forward to though of course the line-up usually has late additions (Tarantino looks possible). Little Joe & Frankie are new-to-me and sound interesting. I read a blog davesmoviesite which predicted Bacurau for the Palme d’Or but who knows!

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    1. Bacurau? That is interesting. I will certainly welcome that decision too. Actually, now I read the plot, it sounds fascinating. For starters, I am now compiling a list of films set in Brazil, and it fits in, and secondly this theme of local people not being who they appear to be is rather curious. I think I read some literature recently on that, was it by Hanya Yanagihara? Probably.

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      1. Yes, Bacurau does sound intriguing, especially for those interested in different cultures. Pleased to see Sônia Braga in the cast, she elevated Aquarius with her performance. Bus 174 is prob the best Brazilian film I’ve seen(technically a doc) Haven’t read Yanagihara but googling her I see her most popular on goodreads is Little Life

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        1. Sônia Braga there as well? Well, that’s a film worth seeing then! I have not seen Bus 174, but it looks something I will be interested in because it is a documentary and about a hostage-taking situation. Thanks for the recommendation! 🙂

          My list of Brazilian films will only include five films and not “best films”, but simply those I watched recently – some obvious ones, like City of God, and also animation and comedy. Sometimes I like watching those to expand my “cinematic” horizons a little, heh, if I can say that, and I thought I would share 🙂

          I have been thinking more about books recently. I believe Yanagihara’s debut book The People in the Trees is about a strange tribe in Micronesia that apparently discovered immortality. Her second book is A Little Life and it is long and quite disturbing, well – very disturbing, but also brilliant in a way. It is about four friends in NYC and one of them – Jude – is inwardly battling his own horrific past.

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