The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Contents - By Saibal Chatterjee

One of the most glam­orous film fes­ti­vals in the world fea­tur­ing some of the best ac­tors and di­rec­tors the movie in­dus­try has to of­fer kicks off on May 8. Here’s a look at who’s up for the Palme d’or and much more at the pres­ti­gious Cannes Film Fes­ti­val

As the 71st Cannes Film Fes­ti­val un­spools from May 8 to 19, me­dia at­ten­tion will un­der­stand­ably be fo­cused on two Out of Com­pe­ti­tion ti­tles: Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story and Lars von Trier’s The House that Jack Built. The for­mer is the sec­ond spin-off of the leg­endary cin­e­matic saga. It brings to­gether Han Solo, his trusted Wook­iee aide Chew­bacca, and the no­to­ri­ous hustler Lando Cal­ris­sian.

The lat­ter, made by the Dan­ish arch-provo­ca­teur who, in 2011, was sum­mar­ily ban­ished from Cannes for an off-the-cuff re­mark on Hitler, is a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller that fol­lows Jack, a se­rial killer over the course of 12 years in the state of Wash­ing­ton.

Talk is also likely to cen­tre on Scot­tish film­maker Kevin Mac­don­ald’s Whit­ney Hous­ton doc­u­men­tary, a part of Mid­night Screen­ings, and Wim Wen­ders’ Pope Fran­cis – A Man of His Word, which pre­mieres in a Spe­cial Screen­ing. And who can ig­nore Terry Gil­liam’s long-ges­tat­ing The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, the fes­ti­val’s clos­ing film star­ring Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce and Olga Kurylenko?

But fes­ti­val regulars know well enough that the real ac­tion will un­fold around this year’s 21-film Cannes Com­pe­ti­tion lineup, which is as good as any that the or­gan­is­ers have as­sem­bled since the start of this decade.

The fes­ti­val kicks off with the Com­pe­ti­tion ti­tle Every­body Knows, a drama directed by Ira­nian au­teur As­ghar Farhadi. It is a Span­ish-lan­guage film star­ring Javier Bar­dem, Pene­lope Cruz and Ri­cardo Darin. Farhadi will not be the only fron­trun­ner for the Palme d’or. Jean-luc Go­dard’s lat­est film, Le livre d’im­age (The Im­age of Book), is his eighth en­try in the Cannes’ main Com­pe­ti­tion. The 87-year-old French di­rec­tor has never won the Palme d’or.

He made his first film in 1960, broke into the fes­ti­val only in 1980 with Ev­ery Man for Him­self, and had to wait un­til 2013 to bag a Cannes award — the Jury Prize for Good­bye to Lan­guage. Will the tide turn for him this year?

The lat­est edi­tion of the fes­ti­val has al­ready paid him a de­served trib­ute. Not only is the mav­er­ick French New Wave pi­o­neer in the Com­pe­ti­tion, a strik­ingly vivid im­age from his 1965 Pier­rot Le Fou — it shows Jean-paul Bel­mondo and Anna Ka­rina in a pas­sion­ate, play­ful kiss — is at the heart of the fes­ti­val’s of­fi­cial poster. Never be­fore has a com­pet­ing di­rec­tor been on the fes­ti­val poster, too. Trust Go­dard!

The main Com­pe­ti­tion has sev­eral other un­prece­dented facets, not the least of which is the fact that two of the con­tend­ing film­mak­ers — Iran’s Ja­far Panahi (Three Faces) and Rus­sia’s Kir­ill Sere­bren­nikov (Leto) — may not be at hand to present their of­fi­cial entries.

Panahi has been un­der house ar­rest in Tehran and barred from film­mak­ing since 2010 but he has kept go­ing. Sere­bren­nikov, di­rec­tor of the Go- gol Cen­tre in Moscow and a bit­ter critic of Vladimir Putin, has been charged by the Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties with mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of govern­ment funds. A trip to the Croisette is un­likely for both.

Sere­bren­nikov, who is also a cel­e­brated the­atre di­rec­tor and pro­ducer, made his Cannes bow in 2016 with the Un cer­tain re­gard ti­tle The Stu­dent. His new film is about the life of Soviet rock star Vik­tor Tsoi and the Len­ingrad rock un­der­ground of the 1980s.

Panahi, on his part, has seen steady ac­tion in Cannes — as well as in the world’s other ma­jor fes­ti­vals — since win­ning the Cam­era d’or in 1995 for his de­but film White Bal­loon, which pre­miered

in Di­rec­tors’ Fort­night. In 2003, Panahi’s Crim­son Gold, took home the Un cer­tain re­gard Jury Prize. In 2011, Panahi’s clan­des­tinely made This is Not a Film was smug­gled out of Iran and screened in a spe­cial event in Cannes.

If the Ira­nian wins the Palme d’or, he would be com­plet­ing a rare “Grand Slam.” He al­ready has Ber­lin’s Golden Bear (for Taxi, 2015) and the Venice Golden Lion (for The Cir­cle, 2000) un­der his belt. Will the jury headed by Aus­tralian ac­tress Cate Blanchett give Panahi the one prize that is miss­ing from his man­tel­piece?

Panahi’s Three Faces is about three Ira­nian ac­tresses of dif­fer­ent vin­tage. It would be tempt­ing to think that a panel of nine ju­rors that in­cludes five women, three of them ac­tresses (be­sides Blanchett, Lea Sey­doux and Kris­ten Ste­wart), would take more than keen in­ter­est in the lat­est film of Iran’s most awarded di­rec­tor, who, sur­pris­ingly, is in the fes­ti­val’s main Com­pe­ti­tion for the first time ever.

Only one Palme d’or win­ner — Nuri Bilge Ceylan whose Win­ter

Sleep fetched him the fes­ti­val’s top prize in 2014 — is in con­tention this year. He is com­pet­ing this year with The Wild Pear Tree, which sees the di­rec­tor ex­plor­ing his pet themes via the story of an as­pir­ing writer who re­turns to his na­tive vil­lage in pur­suit of his am­bi­tion.

Eight other di­rec­tors in the lineup, half of them from Asia, have won clos­ing night hon­ours in the past. An in­ter­est­ing duo in the Com­pe­ti­tion is made up of Pol­ish-bri­tish film­maker Pawel Paw­likowski (Cold War) and Kazakh di­rec­tor Sergey Dvort­sevoy (Ayka). The for­mer, who has been mak­ing films for three decades, taught in the mid-1990s at the film school in Moscow where Dvort­sevoy, a re­mark­able doc­u­men­tary film­maker who won the Prix Un cer­tain re­gard in 2008 for his first fic­tion fea­ture Tul­pan, was a stu­dent.

It is, of course, not known if a teacher and his pupil have ever com­peted against each other in Cannes. This is

Paw­likowski’s first trip to Cannes, while Ayka marks Dvort­sevoy’s maiden Com­pe­ti­tion ap­pear­ance. Paw­likowski, 60, who won an Os­car for Ida, is an avowed fan of thirty-some­thing Dvort­sevoy’s style of film­mak­ing, as cer­tainly are hordes of cineastes across the world who dis­cov­ered him through Tul­pan, if not through the fab­u­lously evoca­tive doc­u­men­taries the for­mer Aeroflot avi­a­tion en­gi­neer made ear­lier.

Also note­wor­thy is a pair of Arab di­rec­tors in the main Com­pe­ti­tion, the first such in­stance in re­cent mem­ory. One of the two, Egyp­tian Abu Bakr Shawky (Yomed­dine), is also the only debu­tant among the 21 film­mak­ers. Yomed­dine is about a man raised in a leper colony who sets out with an or­phan boy and a don­key to look for the fam­ily that aban­doned him as a child. The plot stems from The Colony, a short film Shawky made chron­i­cling tales of res­i­dents of the Abu Zaa­bal leper colony in Egypt.

No first-time film­maker has won the

Palme d’or since 1989, when Steven Soder­bergh bagged the award for sex, lies and video­tape. That apart, no Egyp­tian di­rec­tor has ever won the top prize here although the na­tion has been rep­re­sented in the Cannes Com­pe­ti­tion as many as 14 times. So, Shawky has his­tory against him.

Le­banese ac­tressturned-di­rec­tor Na­dine Labaki (Caper­naum), on the other hand, has deep, long links with the fes­ti­val. Her first film, Caramel (2007), emerged from a screen­play that she de­vel­oped dur­ing a Cannes Film Fes­ti­val Res­i­dence pro­gramme in 2005. The film pre­miered in Di­rec­tors’ Fort­night. In 2011, Labaki was back on the Croisette with Where Do We Go Now?, which played in Un cer­tain re­gard. Caper­naum, her third di­rec­to­rial ven­ture, has cat­a­pulted her to the main Com­pe­ti­tion.

Jia Zhangke (Ash is Purest White), Lee Chang-dong (Burn­ing, an adap­ta­tion of a Haruki Mu­rakami short story), Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) — will lead the Asian charge, with Com­pe­ti­tion first-timer Ryusuke Ha­m­aguchi (Asako I & II) com­plet­ing a strong quar­tet.

Be­sides Go­dard, France is rep­re­sented in the main Com­pe­ti­tion by Stephane Brize (At War), Christophe Honore (Sorry An­gel), Yann Gon­za­lez (Knife + Heart) and Eva Hus­son (Girls of the Sun), star­ring Em­manuelle Ber­cot and Gol­shifteh Fara­hani. Italy has two films in the run­ning — Mat­teo Gar­rone’s Dog­man and Alice Rohrwacher’s Laz­zaro Felice.

The two Amer­i­cans in the Com­pe­ti­tion are Spike Lee (Blackkklansman), who is com­pet­ing in Cannes for the third time, and David Robert Mitchell (Un­der the Sil­ver Lake), who is vis­it­ing the Croisette for the third time but is vy­ing for the Palme d’or for the first time. Po­ten­tial gems ga­lore in there!

On the cover: Kris­ten Ste­wart

French di­rec­tor Jean-luc Go­dard’s lat­est film Le livre d’im­age is his eighth en­try in the Cannes’ main Com­pe­ti­tion.

The jury is headed by Cate Blanchett.

Pol­ish-bri­tish film­maker Pawel Paw­likowski is up for the Palme d’or for Cold War.

Girls of the Sun by Eva Hus­son is com­pet­ing for the Palme d’or.

There will be a lot of me­dia at­ten­tion on Ron Howard’s Out of Com­pe­ti­tion ti­tle Solo: A Star Wars

Story star­ring Alden Ehren­re­ich (pic­tured).

Ital­ian di­rec­tor Mat­teo Gar­rone’s Dog­man.

Com­pe­ti­tion first-timer Ryusuke Ha­m­aguchi brings Asako I & II to the fes­ti­val.

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