The slate for next month’s Cannes film festival was announced this morning at Paris’s Intercontinental Hotel. According to whom one believes, the American presence at the festival will be “strong” (Variety) or “typically slight” (The Guardian). Thierry Fremaux, the festival’s artistic director, said “American cinema is back in force.” He also said “American cinema will be relatively strong, and not just Sundance-style independent cinema and studio fare.”
It depends what one means by “American.” The U.S. films in the Competition section include “Killing Them Softly,” a Brad Pitt heist-and-hitman drama directed by the New Zealander Andrew Dominik; “Lawless,” a Depression-era bootlegging-gangster movie directed by the Australian John Hillcoat; and the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” directed by the Brazilian Walter Salles (and an Anglo-American co-production).
The other two American Competition entries were actually directed by Americans. “Mud,” the Missisippi-based story of a friendship between a fugitive and a 14-year-old boy, was made by Jeff Nicholls (“Take Shelter”), who comes from Arkansas. “The Paper Boy,” based on Pete Dexter’s novel about two brothers investigating the possibly wrong conviction of a man on Death Row in Florida, was directed by Philadelphian Lee Daniels ("Precious").
Matthew McConaughey plays the fugitive in “Mud” and a reporter (the brother is played by Zac Efron) in “The Paperboy.” Nicole Kidman, who plays a Death Row groupie in “The Paperboy,” also portrays the war correspondent Martha Gellhorn opposite Daniel Craig’s Ernest Hemingway in HBO’s “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” directed by Philip Kaufman. It plays out of competition at Cannes, as does the animated “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” and, more interestingly, Bernardo Bertolucci’s latest, the all-Italian teen drama “Me and You.”
The American films in Un Certain Regard are Benh Zeitlin’s post-Hurricane Katrina fantasy drama “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which triumphed at Sundance, and the US-Canadian disease thriller “Antiviral,” the directorial debut of Brandon Cronenberg, whose dad David’s “Cosmopolis,” based on the Don DeLillo novel, is one of the most eagerly anticipated Competition films. Actress Sarah Gadon appears in the films by both Cronenberg père and fils. She is a future star, but may not yet deflect paparazzi attention from Kristen Stewart (“On the Road”) and Robert Pattinson (“Cosmopolis”) as their publicists try to keep them apart on the Croisette.
Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" may yet turn up at the festival. As previously announced, the opener is Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” certainly a fillip for American kudos. The closer is “Thérèse Desqueyroux,” the second adaptation (following the 1962 Georges Franju film) of François Mauriac’s harrowing novel about a woman who poisons her husband. It stars Audrey Tautou and is the last film directed by Claude Miller, who died on April 4.
The Competition is reasonably well represented by auteurs, though there’s not a woman among them. As well as “Cosmopolis,” the roster includes new films by the 80-year-old nouvelle vague master Alain Resnais, Michael Haneke, Ken Loach, Léos Carax, Christian Mungiu, Abbas Kiarostami, Carlos Reygadas, and Jacques Audiard. The latter’s French-Belgian “Rust and Bone,” about a homeless man (Matthias Schoenaerts) in love with a killer-whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) who is horrifically maimed, may be the Gallic favorite to win the Palme d’Or.
The full list of Cannes' films is here.