In arguably the greatest movie news since theaters closed and the best movie news since The Great parasite 2020 Oscars Sweep, Cannes has announced the line-up for its 2021 Festival, which will take place on the Croisette from July 6th to 17th, with none other than Spike Lee chairing the jury. (Is Spike the only 2 year old president of the Cannes jury?) The selection of 63 films – 24 of which are in the official competition – is overflowing with highly anticipated releases from around the world. Festival director Thierry Frémaux and the selection committee have managed to squeeze into the line-up a majority of well-known directors that appear after a year with relatively little publications. On the other hand, most Cannes lineups feel like this.
As announced some time ago, Leos is Carax’s psych-fantasy musical Annette, led by Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard and co-written by Ron and Russel Mael of the art rock duo Sparks, will open the festival at Wes Anderson’s The French shipping last year would have. Anderson was one of many who waited last year for this year’s edition, his high-profile love letter to journalism, which is still premiering at the Palais. Annette marks Carax’s English-language debut alongside several other notable directors.
Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul dropped out from the backdrop of his native Thailand for his English-speaking debut. memory, which stars an atmospheric, ghostly Tilda Swinton and deals with the concept of memory. Mia Hansen Love’s Bergman Island, which focuses on a filmmaker couple, played by Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps (who appear to mirror themselves and Olivier Assayas), who travel to the storied island of Fårö to write their respective scripts, is its English-language premiere and its debut in competition.
Krieps is one of the few to appear in multiple titles, also at the center of actor-director and Cannes regular, Mathieu Amalric Hold me tight, which will play alongside films by other well-known names in the newly added section Cannes Premieres, like Hong Sang-soo (would it be a festival without him?), Arnaud Desplechin (the same) and Kornél Mundruczó.
Léa Seydoux is another multi-film participant, with Bruno Dumonts On a semi-clear morning in the Cannes Premiere section and in the film by the Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi My wife’s story play in competition. The latter is another English-language debut, this time an adaptation by Milán Furst about a romance between a sea captain and a woman in a café. Out of competition title Mother sunday will celebrate Eva Husson’s English-language debut, Odessa Young in a role that challenges Shirley to remember: a maid in a house overseen by a headstrong couple in Olivia Colman and Colin Firth. How that manifests itself remains to be seen, but it sounds like a good recipe.
Between the directors mentioned above, it may sound like Cannes 2021 is closer to gender parity than it has been in the past, but little, if any, progress has been made in this regard. It’s worth noting, however, that no steps have been taken back either. Only four of the twenty-four films in the competition are directed by women – like most in the competition ever – with Julia Ducournaus (from carnal Raw Fame) titanium and Catherine Corsinis The gap fill in the rest.
This is where the Cannes premiere selections come into play again. The section was created for anticipated and impressive publications by well-known filmmakers who were not selected for the competition. Four out of nine titles were staged by women. Three of them are documentaries that have an unusually robust presence at the 2021 festival. Films by Charlotte Gainsbourg about her mother Jane Birkin, Andrea Arnold about cows and Ting Poo and Leo Scott about the life and times of Val Kilmer can be found alongside Todd Haynes’ Velvet underground and Oliver Stones JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass.
Five new filmmakers will make their debut in the Uncertain Regard section, including Gessica Généus from Haiti, Romanian-Belgian Teodora Ana Mihai and Jiazuo Na from China, all of whom could be names to watch out for at the end of the festival. Other notable mentions are Justin Chons Blue Bayou, that follows a Korean-American residing in Louisiana and Kogonada’s second feature According to Yang, in which Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith ran into familial complications following an AI malfunction in the near future.
Gainsbourg and Amalric aren’t the only actor-directors making exciting debuts, Sean Penn is ready to return with it Flag daythat should be more interesting than its title, and Shlomi Elkabetz are premiered Black notebooks in the Special Screenings section, where the Ukrainian realist Sergei Loznitsa and the Brazilian-Algerian Karim Ainouz are showing new films. And perhaps most notable in special screenings The year of the eternal storm, a collection of pandemic-themed shorts by Jafar Panahi, Anthony Chen, Malik Vitthal, Laura Poitras, Dominga Sotomayor, David Lowery, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (again). These short film all-timer projects don’t usually run, but here’s the hope that restlessness creates brilliance.
It feels like we haven’t scratched the surface without mentioning or without mentioning the new films by Nadav Lapid, Sean Baker, Asghar Farhadi, Justin Kurtzel, Tom McCarthy or Jacques Audiard, to name just a handful that Jodie Foster was given a Palm of Honor d’Or, or without acknowledging the fact that Director’s Fortnight and Critic’s Week, both starring in the lineup, have not yet announced their films. And somehow big titles like Jane Campionion’s are still missing The power of the dog and Andrew Dominiks Blond, who both belong to Netflix, who turned down the offer to play the films out of competition, thus keeping the four-year stalemate between Netflix and Cannes alive.
But not scratching the surface is in the nature of the Cannes animal. It is, among other things, a reminder that the film is thriving. As Fremeux said in his announcement, “Cinema is not dead.” It continues to peak and flourish in every form imaginable from country to country, an accessible, communicative, collaborative and evolutionary artistic expression that has received worldwide attention for good reason.