Art and Experience: What year of Cannes is this again? Woody Allen’s opening the festival, Steven Spielberg’s got an out-of-competition slot, Pedro Almodovar’s in the main competition. All of these things have come to pass before. Cannes’ allegiance to its club of world-class filmmakers is only rivaled by its adoration of stars. But even as the 69th edition of the festival provides a global platform for the likes of Allen’s “Cafe Society,” opening this year’s festival, Spielberg’s “The BFG,” and Almodovar’s “Julieta” — among several other internationally renowned auteurs — they aren’t the whole story.
Other notable filmmakers and stars in this year’s venerated Official Competition — Nicolas Winding Refn with the cannibal thriller “Neon Demon,” Belgian duo the Dardenne brothers with “The Unknown Girl,” Olivier Assayas with the Kristen Stewart vehicle “Personal Shopper” — have been long expected to show up. However, Cannes usually gets its pick of the litter among the best in current cinema, which means that there’s plenty of room to pick apart the details of its selection. Here are a few striking developments from the announcement of the 2016 program.
With so many big titles in production around the world, a lot of possible additions to the lineup inevitably didn’t make the cut. In some cases, they may not have been ready, or the festival programmers didn’t like what they saw. Explanations will vary depending on who you ask, but there were many notable omissions this year. Few expected Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” to be ready in time for Cannes, and that appears to have been the case. Ben Wheatley, a rising star of British cinema, made the action movie “Free Fall” with Brie Larson quite a while ago, but it also appears to be angling for later this year. Other high-profile titles expected to hit the fall circuit include Derek Cianfrance’s “The Light Between the Oceans,” starring Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, as well as Clint Eastwood’s Tom Hanks vehicle “Sully.” Already, the last quarter of the year has started to take shape.
More surprisingly, Iranian heavyweight Asghar Farhadi (the Oscar-winning “A Separation”) seemed like a safe bet for Cannes with the untitled project he shot last year. It’s not there, and neither is Terrence Malick’s cosmic mystery “Voyage of Time,” which many assumed to be reaching its competition. Chilean director Pablo Larrain was widely expected to land in Cannes competition with his period drama “Neruda,” and Mexico’s Amat Escalante had a shot at following up his first Cannes competition slot (for the ultra-violent “Heli”) with “The Untamed.” No such luck for either Latin American director. The legendary Alejandro Jodoworsky, meanwhile, didn’t surface with “Endless Poetry,” but that’s allegedly heading to nearby Director’s Fortnight, where the octogenarian filmmaker premiered “The Dance of Reality” in 2013.
And lest we forget: Oliver Stone’s “Snowden,” in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the exiled contractor, was pushed out of a release date last fall into this year — which would make it an easy fit for Cannes, given the director’s pedigree. At the same time, Stone hasn’t made a strong narrative feature in a number of years, so it’s possible this one simply didn’t fit the festival’s standards.
Finally, here’s a bevy of other notable filmmakers (many of whom have a history at Cannes) with projects known to be in various stages of completion who didn’t surface in the lineup today: Fatih Akin, Bertrand Bonello, Marco Bellochio, Arnaud des Pallières, Francois Ozon, Joaquim Lafosse, Emir Kusturica, Wim Wenders, Stephen Frears, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Cate Shortland, Lucrecia Martel, James Gray, Denis Villeneuve, Andrew Dominik, David Michod, Ari Folman, John Cameron Mitchell. Of course, their absence is a nice reminder that a whole world of movies exists well beyond the confines of this particular festival lineup.
For years, Cannes has weathered controversy over the small number of women directors in its lineup, and it hasn’t dodged that issue with this year’s selection. Only three women directors wound up in this year’s main selection: Maren Ade, the German filmmaker whose intense relationship drama “Everyone Else” was a sleeper hit in 2009, steps up to competition with the similarly-themed “Toni Erdmann.” Cannes fixture Andrea Arnold (whose “Fish Tank” was a hit in competition; she later served on the jury) returns with “American Honey,” a hard-partying midwestern tale. And French actress-turned-director Nicole Garcia also returns to Cannes, where her drama “Charlie Says” played in 2006, to premiere “From the Land of the Moon,” an adaptation of Milena Agus’ WWII-set co-starring Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel.
However, Cannes tends to wield its Un Certain Regard sidebar like an excuse note to show the broader reach of its lineup. “In spite of all the appearances, we make no distinction between competition and the other parts of the selection,” said artistic director Thierry Fremaux at the 2016 press conference. Whether or not that’s the case — most filmmakers would unquestionably prefer the Official Competition designation — this year’s UCR does include an additional four women directors, though two of them are associated with one project. Sister filmmakers Delphine and Muriel Coulin’s “The Stopover,” which stars Greek actress Ariane Labed (a regular in Yorgos Lanthimos’ films), focuses on a pair of female soldiers returning from Afghanistan. The other women filmmakers in the section are newcomers Maha Haj (“Omar Shakhsiya,” from Israel), and Stephanie Di Giusto (“The Dancer,” France).
Needless to say, just a few months after #OscarsSoWhite made international headlines, expect this year’s Cannes to keep that conversation going. The festival may claim that its emphasis on quality above all else makes it difficult to choose films on the basis of other demands, but that’s unlikely to placate most people. “We know the risks we are taking,” Fremaux said at this year’s press conference. “Sometimes, those risks are transformed into pain.” The complaints about diversity will hurt more than ever this year.
There are no women of colour in #Cannes2016’s so-called “global” competitions. It is 86% male and 80% white. pic.twitter.com/uH1bwdk1Nm
— Peter Yeung (@ptr_yeung) April 14, 2016