Rumble on the Riviera

It still feels like the Oscars are barely over with, but it’s already almost May and that means it’s time to check in on the Croisette again. The 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival already debuted my favorite poster in years a while back, and this morning, after the usual frenzy of speculation, the official selections for the Competition and Un Certain Regard slates were revealed. So what classy international names can we expect to see gracing the Riviera?

James Franco? Damn it, Cannes.

All right, so Franco’s latest dabble in filmmaking, an adaptation of Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” is “just” playing in Un Certain Regard, not the (theoretically) more prestigious Competition lineup. Though it is also true that the secondary jury is starting to build its own sort of specific task within the festival – as a place to preemptively placate complaints about certain omissions and trends in the Competition spots. You only want to find room for one female director in Competiton (a year after you recognized zero)? Put a bunch in Un Certain Regard! You can say they’re there, but not actually run the risk of giving a girl the Palme d’Or (ew, cooties). Of course, the more you do that, the more you risk some viewers actually starting to care more about Un Certain Regard than Competition – with Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” and Claire Denis’ “The Bastards” off in Un Certain Regard, I have to admit I’m just that much less invested in the Competition slate.

But, to be fair, the Competition slate does imply an embarrassment of riches, with new titles from the Coen brothers (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), Asghar Farhadi (you might recall he won an Oscar for “A Separation,” now back for more with “The Past”), Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”), Roman Polanski (“Venus in Furs”), Nicolas Winding Refn (“Only God Forgives”) Francois Ozon (“Jeune et Jolie”), James Gray (“The Immigrant”), Paolo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty”) and Steven Soderbergh (“Behind the Candelabra”), among others. It’s a heavily American and French-heavy lineup, with Cannes director Thierry Fremaux violating his usual unofficial “rule of three” when it comes to picking the number of French titles to include.

Over in Un Certain Regard, joining Franco, Coppola and Denis will be Ryan Coogler, bringing his Sundance winner “Fruitvale” (now known as “Fruitvale Station,” for whatever reason) to the Croisette, following in the footsteps of other Park City hits like “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Precious” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” Completely out of competition, the festival will also feature screenings of Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” (the opening night selection), Guillaume Canet’s “Blood Ties” and J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost,” a reputedly dialogue-free survival tale in the “Cast Away” vein starring Robert Redford.

Besides my obvious picks like “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Only God Forgives,” I have to say I’m most intrigued by “The Immigrant” (formerly known as “Lowlife”) and “Behind the Candelabra.” Gray (“Two Lovers,” “We Own the Night”) hasn’t really been on my radar, but he has some fans and he’s assembled an impressive cast – a reinvigorated Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner – for his period tale of an Ellis Island immigrant tricked into a life of vaudeville and burlesque. Meanwhile, you might be confused by Soderbergh’s presence, considering “Side Effects” was supposed to be his last feature film – but as it happens, “Behind the Candelabra,” a film about Liberace with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, will go straight to HBO in America, but distributed theatrically internationally. So consider it a phased retirement, I guess.

You can check out the full list here, and I’ll be back with more Cannes coverage in late May!

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