Sunshine tickling the celebrity yachts in the French Riviera, all manner of parties and to-dos at night, open air screenings at the Cinéma de la Plage, and a feast of cinema (by invitation only, of course) unlike any other gracing the hallowed The Grand Théâtre Lumière: welcome to the annual Cannes Film Festival.
For the last few years, no doubt starry-eyed from from all the glitz and glamour of the world’s best film festival, I have been fascinated with Cannes. I wrote about last year’s festival here and chose five films I thought would turn out to be real cinematic gems. How satisfying it was that my first choice (“Amour,” directed by Michael Haneke) ended up winning the 2012 Palme D’Or and, as of this writing, is my favourite film of the year.
Being that I am but one of the many plebeians who may never have the privilege of darkening a door at Cannes (if you know a guy, call me), I have once again decided to highlight a few of the films which I think might prove remarkable from this year’s festival. The films below are ones that exude a certain air of anticipation about them. In addition to some personal commentary based on things that I am largely pulling out of space, I have provided a trailer for each of the selections. Enjoy.
1. Le Passé (The Past). Directed by Asghar Farhadi.
I am excited about the potential of this film as it pairs one of my favourite “young” (he’s 31) actors – Tahar Rahim from “A Prophet” – with the visionary behind last year’s excellent Iranian drama “A Separation.” Bérénice Bejo, who plays Peppy Miller in “The Artist,” is also in the mix. This film, like “A Separation” focuses on a couple’s, uh, separation and the drama that unfolds as a result of the proceedings.
2. Inside Llewyn Davis. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
You are guaranteed at least a pleasurable experience if not a quality film when the Coen brothers are at the helm. Their newest feature is about a fictional ’60s folk singer (the titular character) trying to make a name for himself in the Greenwich Village scene of the time. Carey Mulligan is also present, adding another entry in what is turning out to be quite the filmography. Early reviews (such as those from one Peter Bradshaw – The Guardian’s most revered film critic) give “Inside Llewyn Davis” five stars, saying it is “brilliantly written, terrifically acted, superbly designed and shot [and is] a sweet, sad, funny picture about the lost world of folk music which effortlessly immerses us in the period.” Take that, pal.
3. Soshite Chici Ni Naru (Like Father, Like Son). Directed by Kore-Eda Hirokazu.
I first learned to love Kore-Eda Hirokazu when I saw “Nobody Knows” sometime in 2005. The film is about a group of four children who are abandoned by their parents and are left to fend for themselves in Tokyo, and was executed with near pitch-perfect precision. I was privileged to see Kore-Eda when he came to Hong Kong several years ago for a screening of “Without Memory” which, to this day, is perhaps one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. “Soshite Chici Ni Naru” sees Kore-Eda once again tackle the theme of family (as he has done in various ways in films such as “Maborosi,” “Without Memory,” and “I Wish”), with a film about a Japanese family who is informed by a hospital – six years after the fact – that they received the wrong baby at the hospital when they gave birth. I anticipate questions about identity and parenthood, all handled with Kore-Eda’s gift for subtlety and for suspending judgment.
4. La Grande Bellazza. Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Sorrentino’s latest offering is about “a desperate Babylon which plays out in the antique palaces, immense villas and most beautiful terraces in the city.” Okay, so like an Italian Great Gatsby. I so loved Sorrentino’s previous film “This Must Be the Place,” featuring Sean Penn’s note-perfect performance as a washed-up rockstar who goes in search of a war criminal. “This Must Be the Place” was superbly acted and scripted (not to mention hilarious) and if it’s any indication of what’s to come (minus, perhaps, the hilarity) in “La Grande Bellazza,” count me in.
5. Nebraska. Directed by Alexander Payne.
Payne struck the balance between pathos and levity with “The Descendents” and while he’s always been good at subtlety (with measures of awkwardness), I think that film was a sort of rite of passage that helped him find his voice as a mature filmmaker. “Nebraska” looks very promising indeed – filmed entirely in black and white and with a delicious plot about “A poor old man living in Montana [who] escapes repeatedly from his house to go to Nebraska to collect a sweepstakes prize he thinks he has won.”