Festival de ‘Usual Suspects’

April 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

My maiden post on this very blog was a simultaneous defence of the sovereignty of the Cannes Film Festival programmers (headed by director Thierry Fremaux)  and an attack on their predictability when it comes to selecting films to screen in Competition.

Well, the Official Selection for the 69th Cannes Film Festival has finally been announced. And, once again, Fremaux finds himself defending not only the festival’s apparent unwillingness to champion female directors (whether emerging or established ), but refuting suggestions that there is a certain curatorial inertia plaguing this bastion of international ‘auteur’ cinema; one which will see Ken Loach (an admittedly fine film-maker) returning to the Riviera with his 17th feature film, and his 13th in Main Competition. Whatever one’s stance on this snowballing gripe, being a Cannes regular is one thing, enjoying tenure is another; and enjoy it Loach certainly does.

In response to accusations that this year’s competition features nothing more than the ‘usual suspects,’ Fremaux reminds us that directors Maren Ade and Kleber Filho Mendonca are both newcomers to Cannes, or at the very least, to the Main Competition slate. Yet, both film-makers are well known and well respected quantities on the backs of their last films (Alle Anderen and Neighbouring Sounds, respectively), and could in some ways represent the new guard of Cannes stalwarts, joined by Alain Guiraudie who will make his Competition début after his successful stint in Un Certain Regard several years ago. But so as not be be overly presumptuous and cynical, the presence of these three directors and their new work is relatively refreshing in the face of the other 17 entrants, all of whom have previously competed for the Palme d’Or.

But once the sickly feeling that Cannes is deeply conservative wears off, I am reminded, with a thud, that these so-called ‘usual suspects’ represent a sizeable chunk of cinema that I have not yet seen. Bar Andrea Arnold, whose feature filmography I am very much acquainted with, I cannot claim any degree of familiarity with the directorial efforts of Nicole Garcia, Brillante Mendoza, Sean Penn and Xavier Dolan, and this has resulted in my decision to undertake a personal marathon of sorts which I have considered for several years.

Prior to the the opening of the Festival du Cannes on May 11th, I will set out to view one film from each of the 20 directors in Main Competition this year, one film that I have not yet seen. In keeping with the Cannes festival website, I may or may not produce ‘Dailies,’ which will most likely take the form of a capsule review. At the end of it all, I the jury will confer my own awards, from the Palme d’Or to the Technical Grand Prize (should I be so inclined).

Of course, I will commence my marathon by viewing Woody Allen’s Zelig (1983).

What follows is my own Competition line-up which has been revised (as of May 9th) to reflect the inclusion of Asghar Farhadi’s new film Forushande (The Salesman) in this year’s Cannes Competition. The announcement was made on April 22nd.


(click to enlarge)

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