And we’re off. The first reviews are in for Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco, set to open the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival tonight, and… well, even if this year’s festival opens with a resounding thud, there’s plenty to look forward to—which is precisely what countless critics have been doing over the past several days as they post their lists of must-sees: HitFix, where Guy Lodge has been previewing every single film in Competition; Indiewire (“10 Films That Might Surprise or Shock Us” and, from Taylor Lindsay, “10 Actors to Watch”); Little White Lies (“15 Films You Need To Know About”); Hugh Montgomery (Independent); the Playlist (“15 Most Anticipated”); Variety (a Venn diagram of selections from Justin Chang, Peter Debruge and Scott Foundas); Vulture (“10 Most Anticipated”); and Buzzfeed‘s Alison Willmore (“11 Movies To Get Excited About”).
Writing for Sight & Sound, Jonathan Romney notes that “once again, the high concentration of A-list auteur names in Competition will bring complaints that the official selection has become a blue-chip insiders’ club. So be it. That simply means that the Competition continues to be unmissable, while there’s no shortage of new names in official sidebar Un Certain Regard and standalone sections Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week.”
For Nicolas Rapold, writing in the New York Times, the Competition “has a throwback feel… At a glance, this year’s lineup of names might have come from a few years ago, even as the death of one Cannes regular, Alain Resnais, in March certainly marked the passing of an era.” Moreover, the selection “barely pokes its head outside Europe.” He, too, will be looking to the other programs, which “are all, in different ways, key to the Cannes panorama with their ready supply of both established cinematic adventurers and rising filmmakers, in a mix that doesn’t bear the burden of being the centerpiece.”
And at Indiewire, which is indexing all of its Cannes coverage, Eric Kohn argues that “if you really want to go digging from some cinematic discoveries from around the world, the place to look is down the road at Directors’ Fortnight.”
Jon Frosch, writing for the Atlantic, notes that many of the complaints hurled at the festival’s programmers this year are the same as they’ve been every year. It’s just that they’re intensifying: an even more unimaginative choice for opening film than usual; too many or too few French films; not enough films from Asia; not enough docs; and of course, not enough women.
President Gilles Jacob and artistic director Thierry Fremaux have been addressing these and other issues in a slew of recent interviews. See, for example, Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn and Cineuropa‘s Fabien Lemercier with Fremaux, Lisa Nesselson with Jacob for Thompson on Hollywood and Fabien Lemercier with Edouard Waintrop, General Delegate of the Directors’ Fortnight. More interviews: Andrew Pulver for the Guardian with Jane Campion, president of the jury (it’s here that we’ve learned that she’s close to a deal to direct an adaptation of Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers), and at Cineuropa, Annika Pham with Jérôme Paillard, Executive Director of the Marché du Film, and again, Fabien Lemercier with Vilmos Zsigmond, “who will be singled out by Angénieux (an official partner of the Cannes Festival) as it pays tribute to a DoP who has left his mark on world cinema.”
From the Guardian‘s Xan Brooks: “Mark Cousins, a critic and filmmaker, feels the festival, by and large, gets the balance right. ‘If there was no Cannes, we’d be desperate for one,’ he says. ‘We’d crave its bulwark against the uber-materialism of the Anglo-Saxon film world, where “you’re only as good as your last picture.”‘ Cannes, he adds, is a very Catholic affair. ‘It anoints, it beatifies, it sends up its white smoke after a conclave. To be sure, it’s decision-making is obscure and its choices often questionable. But its belief in cinema sainthood is exciting and fun.'”
The Los Angeles Times‘ Kenneth Turan emphasizes the sheer variety of the Cannes experience.
Predicting the winner of this year’s Palme d’or are Nicholas Bell, Eric Lavallee and Blake Williams, all at Ioncinema, and Neil Young. Listing the best of the past winners: Brad Brevet (Rope of Silicon) and the Film Experience.
Viewing (5’56”). Guardian critics Peter Bradshaw, Xan Brooks and Catherine Shoard talk about what they’re looking forward to. A couple of years ago, by the way, Bradshaw wrote up a list of his top ten books about Cannes.