The 71st Cannes Film festival maybe won’t be remembered for the movies that competed, but for those who, for various reasons, didn’t go for competition.
First of all, it was the notorious dispute between Thierry Fremaux and Netflix about the theatrical distribution of Netflix movies in France that drove Netflix to withdraw all of its movies even from the out-of-competition premieres. So movies such as the long expected “Rome” by Alfonso Cuarón or the completed version of Orson Welles’ “The Other Side of the Wind” were withdrawn even from the Out of Competition section, although the producers would be delighted to see Welles’ movie premiere in the Cannes Classics section.
Apart from that, many highly expected movies didn’t make it for the Croisette – or preferred autumn’s Mostra, which is closer to the Oscars ceremony. So Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Denis’ “High-Life,” Gaudagnino’s “Suspiria” and Audiard’s “The Sister Brother,”, among others, are reportedly still in post and not ready to take part in the completion section.
Let alone Cannes regular Xavier Dolan, who decided suddenly that Cannes was not the appropriate place to premiere his first English-language feature “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” with the ongoing legal problems with Amazon that prohibited the screening of Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” and the unexpected comeback of the famous Cannes persona non grata, Lars von Trier, after a seven years ban, nevertheless in the Out of Competition section.
On April 12, less than a month before the opening of the Festival, a jury in which the Australian actress Cate Blanchett – two times an Oscar winner but never even a nominee in Cannes – presides over a multicultural group composed by Taiwanese director Chang Chen, African-American director Ava DuVernay, French actress Lea Seydoux, Burundi songwriter Khadja Nin, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, French director Robert Guediguian, American actress Kristen Stewart, and last but not at all least, my very cherished Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev. They came with a lineup that surprised and shocked everybody: big, ‘heavy’ names, regulars and Palme d’Or winners that would be considered as standards, were missing from the competition section.
One thing sure is that none of us – me writing, you reading – have seen any of the movies, either the selected or the rejected. So we cannot share an opinion on their quality, aside from the director’s credentials, the actors, its subject matter, and so on.
The other thing is that the organizing committee has left wide open the possibility of adding new titles in the competition section, which comprises just 17 films. Do not forget that the same thing happened last year with the Palme d’Or winner “The Square.” So things may change any hour now.
Nevertheless, here is a list with the major negative surprises in the list of the Palme d’Or Competition in 71st Cannes Film Festival. There are some titles from the U.S. and Latin America, as the lineup this year seems to be oriented towards the Eastern part of the globe.
10. The Fever by Maya Da-Rin
Further than enhancing women’s participation in Cannes, this film by Brazilian director Maya Da-Rin set in Manaus, in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest, has a really interesting script.
Justino is a 50-year-old Amerindian widower. He had left his village deep in the jungle 20 years ago. He works as a security guard at the port and lives at the outskirts of the city with his beloved daughter. When Vanesa, his daughter, leaves for Brasilia to study medicine, he is taken by a high fever and dreams of a frightening creature that wanders around the forest. In the realm of reality, a wild animal prowls around Justino’s neighborhood. Justino is not sure whether the creature he believes that follows him is a man or an animal.
This is the first feature film from a talented young Brazilian who has traveled and worked throughout the world and came back to her roots, to the vast and mystically mysterious Amazonian landscape, to release her first feature. She got the idea for the movie while filming two documentaries about indigenous people who had left their territory in the jungle to come and live in the city, and in this film she attenuated the haunted relation between indigenous cultures and Western civilization, as it is established by the conquistadors and marked Brazil’s history.
9. Where Life is Born by Carlos Reygadas
Carlos Reygadas is the most promising Mexican director living in Mexico. He may be considered as a Cannes regular, as all his previous four feature movies have premiered in Cannes, with four nominations and three wins.
His latest film goes deeply into the problems that appear in the life of a happy, open couple when the woman falls for another man. Ester leaves Juan and then he has to face the big challenges of his life.
Reygadas plays the lead male role and his companion plays the part of Ester. Grounded to his own homeland, he deals with the difficulties and illnesses of Mexican society, and furthermore, he goes deeply into human relations in an expressionist cinematic way that may remind one of Lynch or Malick.
In reading the articles related to the production of the film, all critics were more than sure that it would premiere in Cannes. Still….
8. Loro by Paolo Sorrentino
Paolo Sorrentino’s ambitious two-part biopic about Silvio Berlusconi and above all, a movie about Italy and Italians as they are reflected in the figure and the ways of the contested former prime minister and media tycoon, couldn’t find its way to the competition section of Cannes. Thierry Fremaux, the artistic director of the festival, believed that one part of a two-part film is not an ideal case to be premiered and compete in a festival.
Sorrentino didn’t seem to be bothered much. He said in an interview, “Cannes is not a bus that all you need to do is get a [long-term] pass to get on it every time. And that’s the way it should be.” No hard feelings!
Both “Loro 1” and “Loro 2” have release dates in Italy on April 24 and May 10. Soon enough we’ll have the chance to enjoy an almost four-hour biography cinematically depicted by a Fellinian master of pictures, a story full of party life, gorgeous naked women’s bodies, but also melancholy and despair as Sorrentino tries to get through the surface to the real personality of the Italian politician and socialite that was loved and hated like few of his contemporaries.
7. Non Fiction by Olivier Assayas
Olivier Assayas has a long history in Cannes, with five nominations for the Palme d’Or and an award for Best Director for “Personal Shopper.” So the decision of the jury not to include his latest film, in which the very French Juliette Binoche is starring, in the competition section came at least as a surprise.
“Non Fiction” is described as a “highbrow, Parisian bittersweet comedy showcasing a sexy cast and witty dialogues.” It is the story of Alain, a successful Parisian publisher, and Léonard, one of the authors he collaborated with the later years, and the latest of Léonard’s work, considered as a masterpiece by Alain’s wife and as an outdated work by Alain himself.
Both of them, publisher and author, are facing their middle-aged crisis that affects their marriages, while at the same time they have to adapt to the overwhelming changes occurred in the publishing world due to the digital revolution.
6. The Birds of Passage by Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego
Guerra amazed us with “Embrace of the Serpent,” a black-and-white movie full of tropical colors and smells, about the impossible melting of the white conquerors and the native inhabitants of the Amazonian tropical forest.
Now, together with Cristina Gallego, they set up the story of drug dealing and violence in their country of origin, Colombia, through the tale of a man who belongs to Wayuu, a remote Indian tribe in the northeast Colombian wildness (in the horn of South America) who paint their faces and try to keep their own way of life, against the invasion of young hippies and the cocaine mafia.
As exotic as it sounds, we have testified that Guerra knows well how to deal with the cultural and political challenges of his country and continent in deep thought, without superficial schemas. Pity for him and for South American cinema that he doesn’t participate in Cannes this year.