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Cannes Critic’s Forecast: Tom Cruise, a Cronenberg Gorefest and a Polish Donkey Hit the Croisette

From ”Top Gun: Maverick“ to Jerzy Skolimowski’s film told from a donkey’s POV, there’s something for everyone at this year’s fest

A version of this preview of this year’s Cannes Film Festival lineup appeared in the Cannes edition of TheWrap magazine.

As the film industry — from the mightiest moguls to the scrappiest indie-theater owners — struggles to bring movies and moviegoing back to pre-COVID standards, look to this year’s Cannes Film Festival to trumpet the cause, starting with a splashy premiere of “Top Gun: Maverick” that’s clearly meant to send out an international message: “Remember summer movies? You love those. And they’re back!”

Beyond that Paramount blockbuster, Cannes 2022 seems to be delivering more of what the annual event is known for, in the best ways (providing an international platform for some of the world’s greatest films and filmmakers) and in the worst (underrepresenting female directors and films from Africa and Latin America, despite repeated promises to do better).

Even with its recurring shortcomings, the Cannes lineup provides an impressive menu of titles that cineastes everywhere have been eagerly awaiting, from David Cronenberg’s return-to-form gorefest “Crimes of the Future” to “Showing Up,” a new film from Kelly Reichardt that promises to fit in her wheelhouse of understated storytelling while also veering into comedy, which represents a mostly new terrain for the indie master.

As ever, new names will emerge from categories like Directors’ Fortnight and Un Certain Regard, but the Official Competition offers a bounty of marquee-name directors.

Claire Denis, after breaking into English-language filmmaking with the brutal sci-fi saga “High Life,” brings her new film “The Stars at Noon,” starring Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn as an American journalist and a British businessman (respectively) who must escape the tumult of Nicaragua in 1984. The busy Denis has another new movie set for later this year, the French-language “Both Sides of the Blade,” starring Juliette Binoche and Cannes jury president Vincent Lindon, which won her the directing award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

International stars Marion Cotillard and Melvil Poupaud play “Brother and Sister” for another venerable French filmmaker, Arnaud Desplechin. She’s an actress, he’s a poet, and they haven’t spoken in decades, but the death of their parents brings them reluctantly back together in the latest film from the director of “My Golden Days” and “A Christmas Tale.”

Croisette and critics’ favorites Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (“Two Days, One Night”) return with “Tori and Lokita,” about two young African refugees looking out for themselves and each other as they restart their lives in Belgium; it could make them the first directors to win the Palme d’Or three times. Another Palme winner, Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”), still at the vanguard of the Romanian New Wave, is back this year as the writer-director of “RMN,” described as “a reflection on the history of Romania through the meeting of its Romanian, Hungarian, [and] Moldovian communities.”

Joining Reichardt as the only other U.S. director in the Official Competition is James Gray (“Ad Astra”), whose latest, “Armageddon Time,” is an autobiographical coming-of-age tale set in Queens against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980. Gray’s fourth run for the Palme d’Or features Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong, Domenick Lombardozzi and Tovah Feldshuh.

Also set in the ‘80s is Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s “The Almond Tree,” featuring Louis Garrel as one of a group of young performers competing for slots at a legendary French acting academy. It’s Bruni Tedeschi’s fifth theatrical feature as a director, although American art-house audiences know her better as an actress in films by Denis and François Ozon, among many others.

Director of the Palme d’Or–winning “Shoplifters,” Hirokazu Kore-eda — whose French-language debut, “The Truth,” debuted at Venice rather than at Cannes; read into that what you will — is back in competition with the South Korea–set “Broker,” starring Bae Doona (“Sense8”) and Song Kang-Ho (“Parasite”) in a story that revolves around boxes that allow people to drop off infants anonymously so they can be taken care of by others. Also set in South Korea is “Decision to Leave,” a murder mystery that’s the first new feature film from Park Chan-wook since 2016’s acclaimed “The Handmaiden.”

After enduring a poorly reviewed English-language remake of his brilliant dark comedy “Force Majeure,” writer-director Ruben Östlund takes the English-language plunge himself with “Triangle of Sadness,” a dark comedy starring Woody Harrelson alongside Harris Dickinson (“The Souvenir: Part II”) and Charlbi Dean (“Black Lightning”) as a pair of models who go on a cruise for the ultra-wealthy. 

Comparisons to Robert Bresson’s 1966 “Au Hasard Balthazar” will be inevitable for Polish auteur Jerzy Skolimowski’s “EO,” which contemplates contemporary Europe through the eyes of a donkey.

The festival’s shutout of Netflix, meanwhile, continues apace, although there’s a bit of an acknowledgment of streaming with the premiere of Olivier Assayas’ “Irma Vep,” an HBO limited series that’s a remake of his 1996 feature.

Read the rest of the Cannes edition of TheWrap magazine.

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