In this world, there are a few things that every filmmaker hopes for: a multi-million dollar budget, an Oscar, and for their movie to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The prestigious festival has given many movies their first push into the spotlight and has launched the careers of people like Bernardo Bertolucci, Jane Campion, and Guillermo Del Toro. This festival on the French Riviera holds a very special place in film history, and it should be no less revolutionary this time around. Many new directors as well as veterans have come back to the festival and turned the film world on its head yet again with what are certain to be classics. With a jury that included the likes of Vincent London, Asghar Farhadi, and Joachim Trier, here are just a few of the films that made a big splash at Cannes.
For the many Baz Luhrmann fans out there, it has been a very long wait. His last film, The Great Gatsby, came out in 2013 and wowed audiences everywhere with its vibrant visuals, interesting soundtrack, and compelling performances. Luhrmann is finally back with a film that should be just as successful, if not more. As the title suggests, Elvis tells the story of Elvis Presley from his early days as a child to becoming a rock and roll and movie star, as well as his complex relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker. With Luhrmann at the helm, you can be sure this isn’t another Hollywood biopic and instead is a tribute to the glamour of a time and a figure gone by starring Austin Butler, in what is surely a star-making performance. Though many critics were divided, Presley’s family has remained steadfast in their overwhelming approval of the film!
In the 1980s and 90s, David Cronenberg was the only director of horror and sci-fi who didn’t sell out to a franchise and managed to stay fresh and relevant. Recently, he has ventured more into crime or psychological dramas, but his new film, Crimes of the Future (not to be confused with his other film of the same name) marks his return to the horror/sci-fi genre since 1999’s eXistenZ. The movie serves as a deep dive into the not-so-distant future in which humankind is learning to adapt to its synthetic surroundings. With a cast including Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, and Kristin Stewart, Cronenberg seems to have struck gold!
The last time Park Chan-Wook premiered a film at Cannes was in 2016 with The Handmaiden. He blew audiences away with his erotic imagery and wild plot. After six years of absence, this South Korean auteur came back and won Best Director for Decision to Leave. The movie tells the story of a detective who falls for a mysterious widow after she becomes the prime suspect in his latest murder investigation and dives into an underground world of ghosts and shape-shifting humans. Park Chan-Wook never disappoints when it comes to thrillers that question what it is to be human and this was definitely no different.
In 2017, the film world was blown away when The Square won the Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival. The director Ruben Ostlund gleefully showed us all how ridiculous the art world could be and cemented his place as one of the most darkly hilarious directors working in arthouse cinema. His new Palme D’Or winning film, Triangle of Sadness, centers on a fashion model celebrity couple who are invited on a luxury cruise for the super-rich and seems to pack the same punch as the rest of his movies. This is Ostlund’s first venture into English-language filmmaking and it seems on course to become a hit not just in Europe but also in the US after getting an eight-minute standing ovation.
Many of the films on this list won’t be blockbuster hits and won’t become household names to the average American. This movie is different. In 1986, Top Gun defined an era and launched Tom Cruise’s career as a viable and consistent action star. Today, almost 36 years later, we are finally getting a sequel. Top Gun: Maverick picks up 30 odd years later as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise), who has been dodging promotion, is put in charge of training a group of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission. Among the recruits is Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, the son of Maverick’s late best friend Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. Along with this premiere, the festival saw a tribute to Cruise and marked a return to his top-billed action star status after a few years of absence.
Another former Palme D’Or winner, Hirokazu Kore-eda made everyone cry with his sentimental yet utterly realistic classic Shoplifters. After working in France, Kore-eda has returned to Asia to make a film with some of South Korea’s brightest stars. Broker revolves around characters associated with baby boxes, which allow infants to be dropped off anonymously to be cared for by others. With this kind of plot, a director like Kore-eda can make magic. His skills at creating painfully true stories that also carry a healthy dose of romanticism and longing are incredible. Along with a cast of legends like Song Kang-ho and Bae Doona, will break your heart in the most beautiful way!
The Stars at Noon
Clare Denis has come back to Cannes with another soon-to-be classic. Denis has shown over the years that she is a master of weaving personal stories together with the politics of privilege, particularly surrounding France’s colonial violence in Africa with movies like White Material and Beau Travail. Her new film, The Stars at Noon, follows that same tradition but focuses on a new part of the world. The story revolves around a mysterious English businessman and an American journalist who strike up a romance and must now team up to escape Nicaragua during the Nicaraguan Revolution. Denis’ familiarity with colonial injustice definitely translates well to Latin America and proved to be one of the most talked-about films of the festival.
The last time George Miller went to Cannes, he premiered what some would call the greatest, most feminist, and exciting action film of all time with Mad Max: Fury Road. Now he’s back with another epic fantasy film. Three Thousand Years of Longing tells the story of a scholar (Tilda Swinton) who encounters a Djinn (Idris Elba) who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. What follows is a romantic and unexpected journey no one could have expected. The movie plays like a meeting between Dune and The English Patient and could bring epic, time-sweeping romances back into vogue.
In recent years, one of the greatest collaborations in cinema has been between director Kelly Reichardt and actress Michelle Williams, but unfortunately, their last collaboration was six years ago with Certain Women. The two finally returned this year at Cannes with Showing Up, a movie about an artist on the verge of a career-changing exhibition who finds inspiration in the chaos of life. Time and again, Reichardt has proven herself to be more than capable of finding the poetry in everyday life and Williams has shown she is one of the most criminally underrated actresses of her generation. Together, they make an intimate and beautiful cinematic experience.
In 2013, director James Gray came to the Cannes Film Festival with The Immigrant. This period drama told the story of his grandmother, a young Polish immigrant (Marion Cotillard) who is forced into prostitution after losing her sister at the border. He returned this year with an even more personal tale about his own upbringing in Queens, New York with Armageddon Time. The 1980s coming of age story stars Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, and Jeremy Strong. Though many have loved his recent adventure and space films, it is a pleasure to see Gray return to his roots in style with such an amazing cast!
Honorary Mention: Irma Vep
While not a movie, this miniseries marked a beautiful return to Cannes not just for the illustrious director, Olivier Assayas, but for the source material. In 1996, Assayas premiered his inventive and very meta-movie, Irma Vep, at Cannes and showed the world why Maggie Cheung was a once-in-a-generation talent. This year he came back, expanding the story, and giving Alicia Vikander the chance to show her stuff. The new Irma Vep revolves around Mira, an American movie star disillusioned by her career and personal life, who comes to France to star as “Irma Vep” in a remake of the French silent film classic Les Vampires. This miniseries dives deep into the human psyche and what it means to be a good actor. For fans of the original, this is the miniseries to watch!
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