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Twelve Cool Films from the Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes Film Festival is in the books, and there are some cool things that happened at the 70th iteration of this super-prestigious festival.  This will be a causal post where I touch on a few of the things that interest me and therefore should interest you (because I am very often right).  Obviously, I haven’t seen any of these films, so my excitement is completely based on word-of-mouth from the festival and other murmurs.  I’ll recount the winners of the awards, then mention the other flicks that have me excited at the very end.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yay hospital drama!  Also, I think there may be murders.  Someone said something about a “dark, courageous ending”, so all bets are of for this one.

This film from Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Dogtooth) is one of my most-anticipated films from Cannes this year.  I absolutely loved The Lobster, and the buzz is that this follow-up has a similarly dark tone.  Apparently it is less funny, more dramatic, but still has Lanthimos’s peculiar sense of humor about it.  Colin Farrell appears again, and he’s joined by Nicole Kidman (who had four films play at Cannes this year) and Alicia Silverstone.  The film also feels contentious at the moment, and I enjoy seeing the kind of films that don’t generate an easily-digestible consensus, because it usually means that it is unique in a way that is hard for people to wrap their heads around.  The Killing of a Sacred Deer shared the prize for Best Screenplay with the next film.

You Were Never Really Here

Joaquin Pheonix is a strange man. 

This film from writer-director Lynne Ramsay earned both a share of the screenplay prize and the best actor award for Joaquin Pheonix.  Apparently there are shades of Taxi Driver in this flick, as Pheonix plays a grimy veteran hit man who I am sure is coming to terms with things.  There’s a sex trafficking plot here and plenty of revenge murders, so there’s a good chance that the subject matter is going to scare people off, but I’m definitely sold.

In the Fade

This is more colorful than I’d expect from a revenge plot.

The other acting award went to Diane Kruger for this German drama from director Fatih Akin.  Continuing with the theme we’ve established so far, this film also feels like it will be a dark one.  There’s drug trafficking, incarcerated paramours, suicide bombings, the whole nine yards of bummer.  This is another film that revolves around a revenge plot, and it will be interesting to compare it to You Were Never Really Here, as these films seem like they’d make great companion pieces, at least from a narrative standpoint.

The Beguiled

Everyone looks so . . . interested in something.

The trailer for Sofia Coppola’s remake of this Clint Eastwood film didn’t really excite too many people when it was released, but this weird little western mystery thriller film performed well at Cannes.  Coppola became only the second woman in the 70-year history of Cannes to take home the best Director prize with this film.  It stars the same major people as The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell, plus Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, and Angourie Rice.  I’ve always wanted Coppola to deliver a film of Lost in Translation quality again, and though I have my doubts that The Beguiled will be that film, I have to admit that it has more potential than anything else she’s made in the last 10 years.

And now, on to the official awards for the films that were shown in competition.

Loveless – Jury Prize (that’s Cannes Fancy Talk for “3rd Place”)

Depressing enough for ya?  Wait ’til he disappears.

This Russian film intrigues me for two reasons:  because Leviathan was this director’s previous work, and because the Jury Prize has been a breeding ground for sweet films over the last few years:  American Honey won it in 2016, and The Lobster took it home in 2015.  Other notable Jury Prize winners include Persepolis, The Angels’ Share, and Crash (the good one).  Anyway, Loveless seems just about as depressing as a film called Loveless would be.  It focuses around a couple in the midst of a bitter divorce, which is being witnessed by their 12-year-old son.  That’d be plenty of bummer (see:  What Maisie Knew), but then the kid goes missing and the embittered couple have to effect a search and rescue mission.  God bless Russian sensibilities.

120 Beats Per Minute – Grand Prix (yep, the “Grand Prize” is for 2nd.  What can you say, it’s the French)

No joke for this one.  Moving on . . .

Maybe it should have dawned on me earlier than this, but these are all really depressing-sounding films.  120 Beats Per Minute won’t buck that trend, as it is a dramatization of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the early 1990s, set in France. The film follows a homosexual activist group active during that time period, and like all movies focused around this subject matter, I doubt it will be very fun to watch.  Still, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important, and historically films like this one have done well earning critical acclaim an performing during Oscar season.

The Square (Palme d’Or )

I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.

Maybe the winner of the first prize won’t be so depressing.  The plot involves the curation and promotion of an art museum in Sweden, and the film stars Dominic West and Elizabeth Moss, with Claes Bang as the museum curator Christian.  Okay, full disclosure:  it is directed by Ruben Östlund, the same guy who did Force Majeure, the film about a cowardly father who leaves his wife and child to die in an avalanche, only to be confronted with the life-altering embarrassment of them having survived.  Still, this film is being described with words like “satire” and “funny”, so there has to be at least some underlying current of comedy, or at least sarcasm.  Hey, after watching the third film about death, following it up with a film about divorce and kidnapping, and then polishing off your night with a flick about sex trafficking, you’d start to consider sarcasm a lighthearted affair.

Other Slightly Cool Things and Then I’m Done

They boo’ed the Netflix logo.

Here’s the catch-all paragraph, rapid-fire style.  Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories are both Netflix films, so they should be the most accessible movies that played at Cannes; they also seem to be of at least above-average quality.  L’amant Double has erotic shades of last year’s The Handmaiden, so my interest is piqued for that.  Filmworker is a Stanley Kubrick-adjacent documentary, so I’m obviously sold sight-unseen with that one (I mean, just take a look around this place).  Wind River is the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan (writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water) and looks awesome.

So there you have it, 12 films from the Cannes Film Festival that ping on my radar at the moment.  Keep your eyes peeled for reviews of these, and I might even do a trailer preview for Wind River in the near future.

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Derek Jacobs

Chicago,IL 60606

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