The Cannes Film Festival dictates what movies we talk about for the following year, and indeed, for many years in the future. It was here that the Romanian New Wave first came into public eye, here that directors like Michael Haneke or Lars von Trier premiered their biggest projects and here that we found the year-defining films like Toni Erdmann or Son of Saul.
The attention and anticipation could hardly be any higher – even if Cannes have an off year, we’re bound to see at least a few interesting projects emerge from the event. And by the looks of it, 2017 won’t be an off year by any standards as the Competition line-up is more stacked than any other year in recent memory. Not only that, but the Un Certain Regard and Director’s Fortnight programmes also look unusually full of big names that might have made it into the Competition any other year.
And yet despite all the grand names, returning winners and star casts, Cannes will surely give the audiences at least a few unexpected surprises, for it does so every edition. Having in mind that and the fact a list of merely the most well-known directors is quite useless, our list will focus on both bigger and smaller pictures in the Competition, trying to predict what the hits will be (and, in turn, the misses (our absentees)).
10. The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola)
One can really look at The Beguiled in one of two ways: finding hope in that cast list and the picks and trailers we’ve had so far, hoping Sofia Coppola has returned to form. Or one can react remembering that the director has been going downhill ever since Lost in Translation with her latest, The Blind Ring, being so bad that whatever project comes next shouldn’t be in the most anticipated list.
The truth is probably somewhere in between. The times that Coppola was one of the “it” directors have surely passed, but if she can tap into the form displayed at the start of her career, we’d be happy to eat our words.
And The Beguiled sure looks like the project for a good comeback. The adaptation of a Thomas Cullinan novel focuses on a girls’ school during the Civil War days. The girls take in a wounded Union soldier and soon, quite expectedly, sexual tensions and rivalries start taking over. Colin Farrell plays the soldier and Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst the inhabitants. A sure bet? No way. A possible indie darling? Why not.
9. The Day After (Hong Sang-soo)
Here’s a man who works fast. Really fast. Hong Sang-soo premiered his On the Beach at Night Alone at the Berlin Film Festival this February (winning Min-hee Kim a Best Actress Silver Bear) and has not one, but two films in this year’s Cannes edition. That’s three movies premiering in four months.
The Day After, being the one of the two in Competition, makes it into the lower half of this top ten, but there is a very good chance it will win the whole thing: Sang-soo has been nominated for four Palmes, three Golden Bears and two Venice Horizons, so it’s high time his feature earns him one of the big prizes. It’s also been a while since an Asian director won, so it may go Hong’s way.
Literally nothing is known about this one, but if you’ve seen one Hong Sang-soo film, you’ve seen them all – none of them have much of a story, focusing instead on how we interact with one another and how we differently we interpret the same situations. The Day After, whatever the plot might be, will surely be poetic, but not tacky, wise, but not arrogant.
8. Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes)
This one has the potential of doing a The Artist type of charm trick on all of us. And it has the potential of being the biggest disappointment in Todd Haynes’ career. The subject matter is so drastically different from his other projects that this could end up being the Southland Tales of 2017, just as much as it could end up as the one oddity everyone still loves ten years later.
Based on the book by Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck is made up of two stories: one in 1927 and one in 1977. The first one focuses on Rose (Millicent Simmonds) meeting her idol, played by Julianne Moore. The second, fifty years later, on Ben (Oakes Fegley) and the mysterious note he finds. Reports suggest that the parts are stylistically very different, some even speculating if the former is done in the silent era style.
But even if it isn’t, the thematic departure alone seems intriguing. Haynes’ stories were always very down-to-earth, focusing on women in and out of love. And Wonderstruck sounds like the weirdest children’s movie ever made, it honestly could go either way.
7. Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev)
Leviathan won Andrey Zvyagintsev and his writing partner Oleg Negin the Best Screenplay award in the 2014 Cannes edition. Undoubtedly the director’s best film since the debut The Return in 2003, was received much better than everything Zvyagintsev made in-between and set the bar sky-high.
The title Loveless refers to a marriage on the brink of divorce. During one of their arguments, the son of the couple runs away and the two must come to a truce to find him.
If the film packs as much of an emotional punch as Leviathan did, and by the sound of that synopsis, it should, we could have a hit in Loveless. Zvyagintsev already proved he can write like the best of them and taking into account that The Return was one of the most visually stunning films of this century, we have to hope this one combines the two.
6. The Square (Ruben Östlund)
The late competition addition of The Square was a real air-punching moment for the Force Majeure fans. Ruben Östlund made one of the funniest existentialist dread movies ever, or, depending on your interpretation, one of the most depressing comedies ever with his previous movie. And while he himself mocked not getting the Oscar nomination, the movie was criminally underrated.
The Square portrays a city in which the people have dedicated a square to whatever debauchery they might want to commit. There are no rules and no laws. Elisabeth Moss is by far the biggest name in the picture, so we’re inclined to believe she plays the lead, although there aren’t too many details on that as of now.
What makes Östlund’s inclusion so intriguing is that he is one of the several young directors that are one movie away from the absolute highest echelon. If Joachim Trier, Andrew Haigh or Östlund can deliver something as good as The Lobster, they will surely see the same treatment Lanthimos has – and they really deserve to.