Is this the Cannes 2017 competition line-up?

We predict 20 titles that might just make an appearance at the world’s greatest film festival in May.

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Dan Einav, Lena Hanafy, David Jenkins

It’s less than a four months until the world’s premiere jamboree of auteur filmmaking opens its golden gates once more, so we’ve done a little bit of sleuthing and taken a punt at guessing which 20 films might find a coveted spot in the 2017 competition line-up.

1. Happy End

Two time Palme d’Or winner Michael Haneke is back with Happy End, a family drama set against the European migrant crisis. The cast is led by two Cannes favourites Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant, in their first collaboration with the director since 2012’s Amour. It also features Toby Jones and Mathieu Kassovitz, the latter being crowned best director for La Haine in 1995. Little is known about the plot thus far, but in an interview with LWLies in 2016, Huppert revealed that “it’s an ensemble film […] a portrait of a family and everything that implies”. Dan Einav

2. The Death and Life of John F Donovan

Cannes darling Xavier Dolan has yet another film to contend for the top prize at the prestigious festival. Having already won a multitude of silverware for his past work, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan could very well be his first shot at the Palme d’Or. The film boasts an all-star cast including Kit Harrington, Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain and Michael Gambon, to name a few. It follows a young actor ten years after the death of his idol, with whom he corresponded as a teenager. Billed as a reflection on stardom, the movie business and the risk of being in the public eye, it’s due to receive a wide release in the autumn of 2017. Lena Hanafy

3. Black Glasses

We were recently out and about in Paris, lunching at a restaurant owned by ruddy-faced monolith, Gerard Depardieu (because that’s how we roll). A waiter explained that Mr Depardieu apologises for not being available to help choose the wine, but he’s out shooting a new Claire Denis film. Even though Denis has a big sci-fi movie(!) in the offing, named High Life and co-written with Zadie Smith, she’s also juggling this smaller-scale drama at the same time, which co-stars Juliette Binoche. Denis only makes great films, so of course anticipation for this one is off the damn chart. David Jenkins

4. Kings

Deniz Gamze Erguven is set to make her English-language debut with Kings, which was written before her breakthrough feature, Mustang. It centres around a foster family in LA circa 1992 before the city erupts in violence after the verdict of the Rodney King trial. Daniel Craig and Halle Berry star as they search for the latter’s son who gets lost in the midst of the mayhem. Though no set release date has yet been confirmed, it’s set to be in cinemas by late 2017, so Cannes could be a possibility. LH

5. Okja

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho is set to release his second English-language film after Snowpiercer, and we’re insanely excited for it. This creature feature harks back to Bong’s previous as it tells the story of a little girl who will do anything to prevent a large corporation from stealing her best friend – a massive animal called Okja. However, the director claims that unlike the beast in The Host, Okja is a “very shy and introverted animal. It’s a unique animal that we’ve not seen before.” This Netflix original stars Tilda Swinton, a holdover from Snowpiercer, Jake Gyllenhaal and Lily Collins – it’s a top-line cast that would be sure to turn heads at this year’s festival. LH

6. Based on a True Story

Cannes might just come too soon this year for Roman Polanski’s hotly anticipated,Based on a True Story, but we’re hoping it’ll be completed in time to slink into the competition line-up. It’s an adaptation of a bestselling French novel by Delphine de Vigan, and will star Emmanuelle Seinger as an author who gets hounded by a crazed fan (Eva Green) following the release of her latest book. The screenplay has been penned by Polanski in collaboration with Olivier Assayas, who won the best director prize last year for Personal Shopper. Can these two greats pull off something special? DE

7. Zama

Zama has featured in our “most anticipated” lists for a fair few years now. This intriguing film is been subject to a slow pre-production period and then delays during post-production, as Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel took a long break before getting her hands dirty in the edit. Having read Antonio di Benedetto’s brilliant 1956 novel, about a snivelling, wretched, self-hating and sexually-frustrated bureaucrat in 18th century Paraguay, upon which the film is based, it’s very difficult to imagine what a film would look like. And that makes us all the more excited to see the results. DJ

8. Thelma

We liked Louder Than Bombs, even if this odd English-language debut feature from Joachim Trier (the man behind the amazing Oslo, August 31st) didn’t quite make too strong a connection with audiences or critics upon its release. Thelma marks another collaboration with regular writing partner, Eskil Vogt, and sees the Norwegian director returning home to tell the tale of a woman who discovers that she has developed strange powers after falling in love. The film is currently in post production and stars actor Eili Harboe in the title role. DJ

9. Where Life Is Born

One thing’s for sure, Mexican maestro Carlos Reygadas has sure developed a thing for silly film titles, this being his follow-up to 2012’s Post Tenebras Lux. Where Life is Born is billed as the story of a beautiful family, which battles to balance the remnants of the old world and the modernity of their existence. It feels like it could be a follow-up to that previous film, which saw an idyllic family unit disintegrate in a range of surreal and obscure ways. The director’s 2007 film Silent Light remains one of the great films of the new century, so fingers and toes are crossed that this one sees him returning to that superior vintage. DJ

10. Ismael’s Ghosts

When we interviewed the actor and director Mathieu Amalric in 2016, we asked him about his work with director Arnaud Desplechin, and he got a little giddy, particularly in reference to the forthcoming Ismael’s Ghosts. “Wow, it’s going to be something!” were his exact words. The follow-up to his sublime My Golden Days (which, sadly, has yet to be released in the UK), the film is a supernatural about a filmmaker named Ismael who receives a visitation from a dead female acquaintance. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marion Cotillard and Louis Garrel fill out the stellar cast. DJ

11. Dark River

British artist-filmmaker Clio Barnard burst onto the scene in 2010 with her experimental doc-fiction hybrid, The Arbor, a paean to the work of screenwriter Andrea Dunbar and director Alan Clarke. From a description of her forthcoming feature, Dark River, she appears to have bid adieu to her experimental roots, as the film, which stars the great Ruth Wilson, sees a woman returning to a village to reclaim a birthright following the death of her father. Interestingly, this new work was made as a result of the Wellcome Trust Screenwriting Fellowship and was developed during a year in residence where, according to Film4, she had unfettered access to experts in traumatic memory. DJ

12. The Trap

The last we heard this film was still in pre-production, but slated for a 2017 release, so there’s a tiny chance Harmony Korine’s The Trap could make a surprise appearance at Cannes. This film has already been in the works for three years, but it seems that Al Pacino, Benicio Del Toro, James Franco and Gucci Mane are all now confirmed to star. The Spring Breakers director’s latest is being billed as a revenge tale about an ex con who seeks out his former collaborators after he’s made to serve time for a botched robbery. Expect a provocation and high style, and perhaps even a long-awaited return to form for Pacino. DE

13. Shulan River

We had to wait far too long for the great Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien to unveil his masterful wuxia, The Assassin, at Cannes in 2015, so we can only hope that the space between that one and his new one, Shulan River, is much smaller. Per a 2015 interview with Film Comment magazine, Hou explained that the film will be adapted from segments of Hsieh Hai-meng’s novel, about secret waterways that run under Taipei and the ancient goddess who once tended to them. Admittedly, there’s no word on what state the film is in, so consider this one a very, very long shot. DJ

14. Wonderstruck

Two years since Carol melted our hearts, Todd Haynes is well on his way to completing his next film, Wonderstruck. The project will see him reunite with Julianne Moore, with whom he’s worked regularly since his second feature, 1995’s Safe, and there’s also a major role for the great Michelle Williams. It’s based on the book by Hugo author Brian Selznick, and is split between two time periods: a 1977 segment about a boy who runs away from his family and heads to New York City; and a section set in 1927 about a deaf girl who follows a similar path. If not Cannes, maybe this’ll get Haynes his long-due Best Picture Oscar? #CarolWasRobbed LH

15. Loveless

There were many, way back in 2014, who tossed their racing forms to the floor in anger when Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev walked away from the competition without the top prize for his well-liked tale of endemic smalltown corruption, Leviathan. Those hoping for for a shift to happy-fun times for this habitually dour director will be sad to learn that the title of this new one isn’t at all ironic, as its plot logline runs thus: “depicts a brutal and pitiless humanity — fragile, broken — in this uncompromising portrait of the struggles of a loveless family.” Let the good times roll… DJ

16. The Waves are Gone

After winning big at Berlin and Venice last year, Lav Diaz might well be looking to premiere his latest film, When The Waves Come, at Cannes, just to complete the set. This one sounds like it could be a good companion piece to Korine’s The Trap (see above), as it too focuses on a newly released criminal seeking to reclaim his life back from those that betrayed him. Partially set in Manila’s most crowded prison, we’re expecting an intense and challenging watch from a director whose last film, A Lullaby of A Sorrowful Mystery, had a runtime of over eight hours. We recommend grabbing something to eat before going to see this one… DE

17. A Gentle Creature

Sergei Loznitsa is bringing us A Gentle Creature, his first fiction feature since the WWII set drama In The Fog, which competed for the Palme d’Or in 2012. Loosely influenced by a Dostoevsky novella of the same name, the Ukrainian director’s next film sounds like it will be a meditation on evil much like the Russian literary master’s own work. The film will reportedly be about an executioner and his prisoner, told from the perspective of the former, who “isn’t played by one single character [but] takes various forms”. Loznitsa reportedly spent months auditioning a range of professional and amateur actors himself to ensure that his film is perfectly cast. DE

18. Mektoub is Mektoub

Abdellatif Kechiche, director of Blue is the Warmest Colour, winner of the Palme d’Or in 2013, teams up with writer/actor Francois Begaudeau in adapting his novel Le Blessure, La Vraie (The Pain, The Truth) as his next film, Mektoub is Mektoub. This one is about a young screenwriter, Amin, who heads to his Mediterranean home town where he meets and falls in love with a girl, Jasmine. However, when a producer agrees to finance his first film, the relationship with Jasmine appears to be under threat. While no casting announcements have yet been made, the film is nevertheless set to be released before the end of the year, so maybe he’ll go for another shot at the Cannes title? LH

19. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos returns to the scene after his critical hit, The Lobster, with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Also starring Colin Farrell as a surgeon who looks after a teenage boy, only for him to be forced to make a great sacrifice after the boy turns out to be sinister. Nicole Kidman is the surgeon’s wife while Alicia Silverstone will play the boy’s mother. Inspired by a Euripides tragedy but set in Cincinnati, Lanthimos is quickly establishing himself as a significant contender for this year’s Cannes competition. LH

20. Jeanette

Yep, it’s finally happened – the Belgian master of misery has made a musical. And on the young life of Joan of Arc no less. Cannes attendees in 2016 were able to see a poster announcing this strange new project in the film market, and seeing as Dumont is no slouch when it comes to getting movies locked down and made, this one, adaptation of Charles Peguy’s play, ‘Le Mystere de la charite de Jeanne d’Arc’, looks like it could be ready and spit-shined for May. But it’s not all fun and larks, as Dumont has said that the film connects Joan’s story to that of today’s radicalised teens. DJ

The 2017 Cannes Film Festival runs from the 17 to 28 May. Follow @LWLies and @daveyjenkins for more on this year’s festival.

Published 3 Feb 2017

Tags: Bong Joon-ho Bruno Dumont Cannes Clio Barnard Lav Diaz Michael Haneke Xavier Dolan Yorgos Lanthimos

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