The 65th annual Cannes Film Festival kicks off on the 16 May and runs until 27 May. The festival previews films from all genres, from around the world. Influential as a proving ground for both established and upcoming filmmakers, the festival is a huge event, drawing huge crowds and media attention.
The competition films, announced a few weeks before the festival, vie for the festival’s highest prize, the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm), awarded to the director of the best feature film of the week. Past Palme d’Or winners have included Federico Fellini, for La Dolce Vita, Martin Scorcese, for Taxi Driver, Joel and Ethan Coen, for Barton Fink, Lars Von Trier, for Dancer in the Dark, and Quentin Tarantino, for Pulp Fiction.
This year, the list of competition films is varied as it is inevitable. It reads like a who’s who of auteurs and dream projects, and choosing a winner will be tough for all involved. Opening the festival with his seventh feature, Moonrise Kingdom, is Wes Anderson. Dividing opinion across the movie-going community, Anderson knows what he likes and definitely has a style all his own. Borrowing from the French New Wave, Anderson’s methodology when it comes to cinematography is deliberate, taking his time to tell a story.
Frequently using the same actors in multiple films, Moonrise Kingdom sees Anderson make use of Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman (his most frequent collaborators), as well as other great talent, such as Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and Edward Norton. The film, set in the 60s, concerns a search party from a local New England island town, hunting for two young lovers who have decided to flee their staid lives. Moonrise Kingdom is a welcome return to live action for Anderson, who, save 2009’s stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox, has been absent from our cinemas since 2007’s glorious The Darjeeling Limited. Smart money is on Anderson to pick up the award. However, the polarised popular opinion may go against him, in favour of more seasoned festival directors.
Another eagerly awaited picture at this year’s festival is David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, based on Don DeLillo’s blistering novel of the same name. The story, such as it is, follows a billionaire (Eric Packer, played by teen heart-throb Robert Pattinson), as he travels across Manhattan in an attempt to get a haircut. To say any more would be far too much. Suffice it to say, if Cronenberg pulls off all the meta, intertextual idiosyncrasies of the source novel, Cosmopolis will be a doozy. Cronenberg is a respected filmmaker, but the hysterical, inaccessible nature of the story may harm Cosmopolis’ chances at the Palme d’Or.
Cosmopolis is not the only literary adaptation doing the rounds at this year’s Cannes. Walter Salles is returning with On The Road, a film based on Jack Kerouac’s seminal 1957 novel. For many, Salles’ film is literary sacrilege; Kerouac’s work is well loved by critics, bibliophiles and wide-eyed students around the world. (Myself included.) However, the chance to see Viggo Mortenson as Bull Lee (based on William S. Burroughs) is irresistible. Also, the fifty-odd years since Kerouac himself wrote to Marlon Brando requesting him to play Sal Paradise in an adaptation, and the many failed attempts to bring it to the screen have stirred much anticipation. If only for a visualisation of what we have all imagined in our heads whilst reading the novel, On The Road will certainly find an audience. Whether the film will win any awards, is less certain.
My personal pick for the gong, however, is Love, by Michael Haneke. No stranger to awards or controversy, Haneke picked up the Palme d’Or in 2009 for The White Ribbon. However, there is a precedent for the same director winning multiple times, (Francis Ford Coppola, in 1974 and 1979, for instance), and Love could be Haneke’s second victory. Isabelle Huppert (Anne) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (Georges) play an elderly couple, both retired music teachers, whose love is severely tested when Anne suffers a debilitating stroke which paralyses one side of her body. Haneke will no doubt approach the story with due respect, yet with his trademark unexpected quirks. (We are talking about a man who remade his own film, shot-for-shot, in English. A film [Funny Games] that was already controversial in its own right for its child-killer content). The subject and the director of Love will both be a big draw for the judges, and it will in all likeliness win the Palme d’Or at the end of the festival.
The festival’s jury is made up of nine industry experts, including Ewan McGregor, Diane Kruger, Alexander Payne, and Jean Paul Gaultier, and will decide on a winner in secret on the last day. Cannes Film Festival is an incredibly important event in the cinematic calendar, and many films have flourished or withered following a review there. All eyes will be on the small seaside town in the south of France in two weeks. Make sure yours are too.