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Cannes 2019: 10 films to look out for


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The Cannes Film Festival is back and kicking.

On board is a plethora of household names and newcomers, all showing and competing at the most prestigious film festival in the world.

This year brings a lot of 'firsts' to the Croisette. Four female directors are competing for the Palm d'Or; amongst them the first black director to compete at Cannes. This is also the first time a trans woman of colour makes it to the selective French screen. 

On the other hand, the Croissette is still very much plagued by traditionalism. The Cannes vs. Netflix drama continues, with no straight-to-streaming films being allowed in the competition.

Here are ten films you should be looking out for.

Asier Etxeandía and Antonio Banderas in PAIN AND GLORY Ó  El Deseo // Image Credit: Manolo Pavón.

1. The Dead Don't Die

The festival opened with Jim Jarmusch's tragicomedy, The Dead Don't Die. Authorities and scientists struggle to understand what is going on when a series of strange events start to take place in Centerville. Animals behave erratically, daylight hours are unpredictable and, finally, the dead start rising from the graves.

The film boasts an A-list cast with Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Tilda Swinton in the leading roles. Amongst the undead are Carol Kane, Iggy Pop and Selena Gomez.

2. Port Authority

Port Authority marks American filmmaker Danielle Lessovitz’s feature-length debut.

The film is set against the backdrop of the LGBTQI+ ballroom scene in New York City. A romance blossoms between Paul (Fionn Whitehead) and Wye (Leyna Bloom). As Paul finds Wye is transgender, he is forced to confront societal pressures that take a toll in the relationship.

Porth Authority is the first film starred by a transgender woman of colour to compete at Cannes.

3. Parasite

Known for his penchant for sci-fi and dystopia, director Bong Joon-ho is now leaning onto the more mundane. Parasite has been described as both a psychodrama and a tragicomedy, which focuses on an unemployed Korean family who becomes obsessed with another, wealthier, family. Before they know it, the family is caught up in an unexpected incident.

Speaking to Variety, Bong said the Korean drama might be ‘too localised’ for international audiences. Nonetheless, it depicts the universal tensions of the gap between rich and poor.

4. Little Joe

Jessica Hausner is one of few female directors to whom the Croisette is no stranger. Her films Lovely Rita (2001), Hotel (2004) and Amour Fou (2014) have competed in the festival before. In 2016 she was part of the jury.

Little Joe is her first time competing for the Palm d’Or. A genetically modified plant is engineered to make its owner happy. But when its creator, Alice (Emily Beecham), brings it home for her son, she starts suspecting her invention isn’t as benevolent as predicted.

5. Atlantics

Mati Diop's first feature is based on her previous short, Atlantiques. In it, a Senegalese man attempts the life-threatening boat journey across the Mediterranean. The full-length version tells the story from a different perspective. In Dakar, Ada’s (Mame Bineta Sane) lover has disappeared and said to have fled to Europe.

Diop is the first black female filmmaker to have ever made it to Cannes’ Palm d’Or competition.

6. Rocketman

Dexter Fletcher might become Hollywood’s go-to 1970s biopic director. He got on board Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired following sexual misconduct accusations.

Now, he takes the helm as the executive producer of Rocketman alongside David Furnish. The film focuses on Elton John's younger years, and while it is a biopic, it’s said to have a fantasy quality to it. Welsh actor Taron Egerton stars.

7. Matthias & Maxime

The plot of Matthias & Maxime is still somewhat unknown, but it wouldn’t be modern-day Cannes without Xavier Dolan. His directorial debut I Killed My Mother (2009) got an eight-minute standing ovation and went on to win four awards at the competition.

Since then, eight of his films have premiered at the festival. After the negative reception of his English-language debut, The Death & Life of John F. Donovan, Dolan has gone back to his mother tongue. He is also starring as Maxime.  

8. Pain and Glory

One of the big-sounding names on the list is Pedro Almodóvar’s potentially auto-biographical Pain and Glory. Physical and psychological issues take a toll on the ageing Salvador Mallo – a Spanish filmmaker. As he revisits childhood memories, he’s forced come to terms with some of his choices.

Pain and Glory stars Almodóvar’s favourites Antonio Banderas (as Mallo) and Penélope Cruz (as his mother).

 9. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Céline Sciamma’s first time competing for the Palm d’Or is a promising one.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a period drama about a bride-to-be and the artist commissioned to paint her. As the wedding approaches, the two women must confront the attraction that has bloomed between them. This is Sciamma’s second time collaborating with actress Adèle Haenel, after Water Lillies (2007).

10. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The list wouldn’t be complete without Tarantino. 25 years after Pulp Fiction won the Palm d’Or, the director brings to Cannes one of the most anticipated films of the year. Set in 1960s Hollywood, the film follows an actor and his stunt-double and buddy striving to be famous. There aren’t a lot of details about the plot, but it’s supposed to be a sort love letter to the final moments of the Golden Age.

Unsurprisingly, Tarantino recruited a top team. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are starring, alongside Margot Robbie, Al Pacino and Dakota Fanning. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is said to be the director’s penultimate film.

The Cannes Film Festival closes on 25th May.

Lead image: Asier Etxeandía and Antonio Banderas in PAIN AND GLORY Ó  El Deseo // Image Credit: Manolo Pavón.

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