This story first appeared in the Cannes issue of TheWrap Magazine.
There’s no question that it’s a great honor to have your film selected for competition at the Cannes Film Festival. There’s also no question that the glare of the spotlight can be damaging as well as helpful: If you’re a high-profile filmmaker unveiling your latest work in competition on the Croisette, then the response, be it cheers or raspberries, will quickly make its way around the world.
(Sometimes, it’s both — 2016 saw Canadian boy wonder Xavier Dolan return to Cannes with “It’s Only the End of the World,” a movie that was savaged by critics before winning the jury’s Grand Prize.)
When it comes to aiming films at an American audience, a case could be made that the risks outweigh the advantages — if you flop at Cannes, it might bury your movie into a tiny, barely publicized release in the U.S. (for example, Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees”), while even good reviews won’t necessarily get you any wider a domestic distribution (for example, Matteo Garrone’s gem “The Tale of Tales”).
For Oscar pundits, Cannes is viewed as an early stop on the road to the Dolby Theatre, with the real action revving up at summer’s end with the troika of festivals in Venice, Toronto and Telluride. Still, a good showing in May can augur well for English-language and Best Foreign Language Film contenders alike.
Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled,” based on the Thomas Cullinan novel that previously inspired Don Siegel’s 1971 version, is the rare title using Cannes as a springboard for an immediate release. Coppola’s film opens June 23 in the U.S., so while Focus will presumably launch theatrically with red-carpet photos of Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell still fresh in moviegoers’ memories, the studio will need to plan a second wave at the end of the year aimed at awards voters.
Other potential Academy Awards contenders — including Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck,” Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Here,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (which also features both Farrell and Kidman) — are bound to hit screens in the U.S. later in the year, most likely after making North American debuts at the Toronto, Telluride or New York festivals. Whether or not Netflix movies can make it into Oscar’s good graces will be tested by two titles — Bong Joon Ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” — that represent the streaming service’s first foray into the Cannes competition.
The competition lineup also features a healthy showing of foreign-language filmmakers who have accrued a significant following among American movie fans, including François Ozon (“L’amant double”), Michael Haneke (“Happy End”), Arnaud Desplechin (“Ismael’s Ghosts”), Fatih Akin (“In the Fade”), Michel Hazanavicius (“Redoubtable”) and Andrey Zvyagintsev (“Loveless”).
It’s not a particularly diverse slate this year — there are no films from Africa (although Barkhad Abdi of “Captain Phillips” fame stars alongside Jennifer Jason Leigh and Robert Pattinson in “Good Time”), and only three of the competition titles are directed by women — but the glitz factor will be as high as ever, with international stars like Jacqueline Bisset, Marion Cotillard, Isabelle Huppert, Julianne Moore, Adam Sandler, Diane Kruger and many more making the scene. The theory of the Cannes Film Festival is that art edges out commerce, but dealmaking and genre-defying rub shoulders very easily every May on the Riviera.
Click here to read more from the Cannes issue of TheWrap Magazine.