In May I will be going to the Cannes Film Festival for the second time, and I feel just as excited as I was the first time. If you care about arthouse cinema - about world cinema, and independent cinema; fuck, if you use the word cinema rather than movies, I'd say - then Cannes means something to you. For me, Cannes represents the sometimes uneasy tension that exists in cinema, between high glamour - the glitz of films, the starriness and sex appeal of actors - and high art. It manages to find that balance, every year: shiny premieres, hot stars, alongside a drab film from Romania about four miserable friends eating brown bread. The credibility of the festival rests on conjugating bold, brave cinema - in standing up for the craft of film, for its intransigence, its political dimension, its dreamlike quality and poetry - with more populist fare. Since the start of the 90s - the era that saw an explosion in what we think of as 'indie' cinema - Soderbergh, Tarantino and the Coen Brothers have all won the top prize. But so, in that time, have Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Cristian Mungiu and Laurent Cantet, for wildly different films.
I think of the festival as a political bastion, a place that recognises anti-establishment views and promotes a liberal, inclusive politics: it stands up to dictatorships, offering a home for dissenting film-makers (like Lou Ye or Jafar Panahi) who are at risk of being oppressed. The origins of the festival lie in anti-fascist sentiment that led in 1947 to the creation of a programme celebrating a great liberating, universal art-form. The festival believes, truly, in the power of film to do good, and to be a form of art for all. This is one of the reasons I could shiver from head to toe with excitement when considering that I'll be climbing the steps of the Palais myself this year.
I'm thrilled to be writing about film, once more, for my great friends at Pajiba.com. I'm given so much liberty to write about films in the way I want by the wonderful, discerning, inspiring people who work for and read the site, and I hope to write some interesting stuff about some films that might not otherwise get much publicity. Pajiba is a wry, sharp-tongued website that is full of heart and passion for the things it loves - a real community site, embracing the arts it talks about. I couldn't have a better home.
So, onto the films that I hope to see this year. It's now just a week until the line-up is revealed, so what better time to speculate wildly about the films that could be showing at the festival? Last year was a good vintage, which suffered from the inclusion of a few films not quite up to scratch and the lack of Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, which was not ready in time. This year, there's a great deal of films whizzing about, jostling each other for a coveted position in the official selection. Here are the films I hope to see, mixed in with a few I think I probably will see on the list.
Several films by women could help the festival to combat the scandal it weathered last year when no female directors were selected in the official line-up. Catherine Breillat with Abus de Faiblesse starring Isabelle Huppert, and Claire Denis with Les Salauds, are in with a good shot I would say, and are reliable, old hands. In terms of newer directors, the festival could give a boost to a young director like Rebecca Zlotowski, who has Grand Central coming out, featuring the great Tahar Rahim. Depending on whether her film is ready or not, we could be seeing Night Moves by Kelly Reichardt. Both Night Moves and Grand Central, with their environmentalist themes, could capture political currents quite nicely, and both offer stars for the red carpet. It would also be super sweet to see Pascale Ferran's new film, Bird People, featuring Anais Demoustier and Josh Charles; this is Ferran's first film since 2007, and sounds rather promising. Otherwise, there aren't many certainties at Cannes, but I'd say that with a starring role for Emma Watson, you can bet your bottom euro that Sofia Coppola will get a call for The Bling Ring.
In other certainties: sod it, I'm going to call Jimmy Picard by Arnaud Desplechin and Only God Forgives, by Nicolas Winding Refn. Desplechin is a great director and his film stars an amazing pairing of Mathieu Amalric and Benicio del Toro. Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, a couple of years back, rubbed a fair bit of its hipster aura off on Cannes, and I think they'll be anxious to welcome Gosling back, hopefully to replicate his suit-and-glasses-and-no-shirt look from last time, which we all so enjoyed. I also think we'll see the new James Gray film, starring Marion Cotillard and the great Joaquin Phoenix. Cotillard is French and internationally famous, which screams Cannes, plus Gray has presented two films here before, so he has form. Additionally, the festival may want to apologise for putting him on the notoriously fractious jury of 2009, presided over by Huppert, which reportedly fought constantly over Lars Von Trier's Antichrist.
Has an English film director made a film this year? Yes! Steve McQueen's Twelve Years A Slave, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender, will be hoping to 'do a Django' - by which I mean, 'be successful at the box' office, not 'accurately portray slavery on film'. That's it for English films. Mike Leigh is on holiday and I don't think Terence Davies' Sunset Song is ready.
From Africa, we can expect to see 'Gris-Gris' by Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, following 2010's A Screaming Man, which won the Jury Prize. That might be it from Africa.
'The Americas' may give up a bit of Malick, the new Jarmusch, perhaps Scorsese (with The Wolf of Wall Street) and the Coen Brothers (Inside Llewyn Davies). Xavier Dolan, the upsettingly young and gifted Canadian master, is reportedly putting the finishing touches to his film Tom A La Ferme - and if he doesn't get selected to the main competition after getting overlooked for Laurence Anyways last year, I cannot wait to hear the hissy fit he throws. He really tore into the selectors last year, which you would not imagine is a good way to endear yourself to the festival; but Dolan is aware of his gifts and knows that he has already earned a place among the more experienced directors here.
From Asia, I'd love to see Hou Hsiao-Hsien's The Assassin, and new films by Hirokazu Koreeda and Tsai Ming-Liang. Koreeda's I Wish is possibly the loveliest film I've seen in recent years, and he has come to Cannes a couple of times before. Asgar Farhadi should be in with a shout for The Past, starring Tahar Rahim (Best Actor at Cannes for A Prophet), and we could also get the new film by Ari Folman (the director of Waltz With Bashir). I also hope we'll get to see the new film by Corneliu Porumboiu, whose Police, Adjective was a masterclass in controlled, forensic cinema.
I wonder if there'll be any surprises. I haven't considered the possibility of Thierry Fremaux selecting a critic-baiting film à la The Paperboy - which reminds me: Lee Daniels' new film, The Butler, may be ready in time. Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Terrence Howard, Oprah, Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey, and centring on the life Eugene Allen, butler to eight presidents at the White House, this is sure to be a... classy and well-conceived work of art.
Do please log on to the venerable Pajiba from May 15th onwards, when I will be reviewing some or perhaps all of these films, should my powers of prognostication be vindicated.