Hannah Woodhead, Adam Woodward

25 films we’d like to see at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival

Could these be the directors vying for this year’s Palme d’Or?

Awards season is over and spring is in the air – which means it’s time to start looking ahead to the Cannes Film Festival. It’s still early days, but the 72nd edition already promises to be a vintage one, with heavyweight auteurs such as Terrence Malick and Pedro Almodóvar currently putting the finishing touches on their latest efforts and a talented new crop of filmmakers knocking on the door of the main competition.

But there’s also an air of trepidation about this year’s festival. Festival President Pierre Lescure and General Delegate Thierry Frémaux have come under increased scrutiny in recent years over the glaring lack of films by female directors in the main programme. There’s also the small matter of Netflix, with last year’s very public spat seemingly no closer to being resolved.

As such, all eyes will be on the official line-up announcement, which is traditionally made around early April. Before then, here are 25 potential Palme d’Or contenders we’d like to see Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Jury convene over when the festival kicks off on 14 May.

1. Parasite

South Korean luminary Bong Joon-ho found himself at the centre of a storm of controversy when his wild action-adventure, Okja, premiered at Cannes in 2017. Initially booed for being a Netflix film, it ended up receiving a four-minute standing ovation. Filmed in the director’s native tongue, Parasite revolves around an unemployed family who take a strange interest in the wealthier Park family. Principal photography wrapped back in September, so a Cannes appearance could well be on the cards. Hannah Woodhead

2. Ad Astra

James Gray’s last feature, The Lost City of Z, missed all of the major European festivals in 2016, premiering instead at the New York Film Festival. With his latest, the Brad Pitt-fronted sci-fi mystery Ad Astra, the American writer/director looks poised to return to Cannes for the first time since 2013, when The Immigrant received a decidedly lukewarm reception. A US theatrical release date of 24 May makes this a fairly safe bet. Adam Woodward

3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Cannes are always keen to champion the best and brightest of French cinema, so we have our money on Céline Sciamma’s new film showing up somewhere in the programme. Water Lilies and Girlhood both played the festival, though Tomboy ended up at Berlin in between. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a period piece about a painter commissioned for a wedding portrait of a reluctant young bride who has just left a convent. The pair find themselves increasingly attracted to one another as impending nuptials loom. HW

4. Radegund

We’ve been hyping Terrence Malick’s World War Two-era drama for well over a year now, and surely – surely – he’s now finally ready to unveil it to his patient, adoring fanbase. The last Malick film to debut at Cannes was 2011’s The Tree of Life, and it duly picked up the Palme d’Or. If as expected Radegund does makes its bow here, it’ll be the film to beat. It tells the story of a conscientious objector who refuses to fight for the Nazis and, as the final screen outing for the recently departed Bruno Ganz, is bound to be an emotional experience. AW

5. Little Women

While Lady Bird had its premiere at Telluride, we think Greta Gerwig might be ready to step up to a bigger stage for her star-studded second feature. Starring (deep breath) Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep and Louis Garrel, the film is the eighth adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel of the same name. The film isn’t due in cinemas until December, so perhaps a Venice or Toronto berth is more likely. But we can dream. HW

6. Shulan River

Having been presented with the Best Director award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival for his breathtaking wuxia epic, The Assassin, we’re tipping Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien to scoop another major prize should his next project, about a Taipei river goddess, be ready in time for this year’s festival. He’s been talking this one up for a while, so we’re keeping everything crossed. AW

7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

It’s been 10 long years since Quentin Tarantino last took a film to Cannes (Inglourious Basterds was nominated for the Palme d’Or, losing out to Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon). Set in Hollywood circa 1969, his latest concerns actor Rick Dalton and his stuntman Cliff Booth (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt respectively). Notably this is QT’s first film since parting ways with The Weinstein Company, so presumably he’ll be looking to make a big splash – hopefully on the Côte d’Azur. HW

8. Proxima

In case you hadn’t noticed, astronaut movies are very in right now, but this one from acclaimed French filmmaker Alice Winocour (Mustang, Disorder) looks an enticingly different prospect to Claire Denis’ recent High Life and James Gray’s forthcoming Ad Astra. An action-sci-fi centred around a space crew preparing for a year-long mission aboard the International Space Station, Proxima stars Eva Green, Matt Dillon and Sandra Hüller of Toni Erdmann fame. AW

9. Pain & Glory

Given that we’ve already had a couple of trailers, and a Spanish release date is set for 22 March, you can go ahead and chalk up Pain & Glory as a lock for this year’s Cannes. Pedro Almodóvar’s 21st feature see him reunite with Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas and Cecilia Roth to tell the autobiographical story of a director reflecting on his life choices. Catalan pop star Rosalia also features in her debut film role. AW

10. Shirley

Indie darling Josephine Decker is making her biggest film to date with this pseudo-biopic of American author Shirley Jackson. She’s teamed up with Elisabeth Moss, who’s nabbed the lead role, while Michael Stuhlbarg takes on Jackson’s philandering husband Stanley Edgar Hyman. This would be a Cannes debut for Decker, who’s usually a mainstay of Sundance. HW

11. The Dead Don’t Die

Billed as a comedy zombie horror, The Dead Don’t Die is Jim Jarmusch’s eagerly-anticipated follow-up to 2016’s Palme d’Or nominated (and Palm Dog winning) Paterson. Adam Driver is once again in the, erm, driver’s seat next to Jarmusch regulars Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton, with Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez and Tom Waits filling out the cast. That’s right, Gomez and Waits: together at last. AW

12. The True History of the Kelly Gang

Hoping to bounce back from his widely-panned Assassin’s Creed, Australian director Justin Kurzel is returning to more familiar territory for his next film. George McKay plays the notorious Antipodean outlaw Ned Kelly, with Russell Crowe as his mentor Harry Power. Further star power is added by Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam and Leave No Trace’s Thomasin McKenzie. Kurzel’s Snowtown debuted in the Critics’ Week sidebar in 2011 and his interpretation of Macbeth played in competition in 2013. HW

13. About Endlessness

Sweden’s doyen of droll, Roy Andersson, took 14 years to complete his much-lauded Living trilogy, culminating with A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2014. His new one, About Endlessness, is said to be inspired by the Arabic folk tale anthology ‘One Thousand and One Nights’. Expect absurdist, melancholy vignettes comprised of ashen-faced figures pondering life’s futility. AW

14. Ema

After his American detour, Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín has returned to his homeland for his eighth feature, a domestic drama focusing on a couple’s breakdown following an ill-fated adoption. Mariana Di Girolamo plays the eponymous Ema, while Larraín fave Gael García Bernal also stars. The director is no stranger to Cannes, but he’s never been honoured with a main competition slot before. We’ve got an inkling that could be about to change. AW

15. The Truth

Japanese writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda has been turning out a film a year since 2013, so it’s safe to assume we’ll get to see his next project sooner rather than later. Shoplifters won the big one at Cannes in 2018, so another invitation to the festival is extremely likely – especially given the fact that this is Koreeda’s English-language debut and stars French acting royalty Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. HW

16. Sorry We Missed You

Although British directors haven’t really factored into the festival’s thinking of late, there are few more harmonious marriages in cinema than Ken Loach and Cannes. The stalwart socialist filmmaker’s latest concerns a working-class delivery driver struggling to get by in modern-day England, seemingly pulling at the same thread as his 2016 Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake. We’d be surprised if a jury that has Alejandro González Iñárritu as its president bestowed Sorry We Missed You the top prize – but you can never count out Ken. AW

17. Little Joe

Cannes has a soft spot for Austria’s Jessica Hausner: her Lovely Rita, Hotel and Amour Fou all screened in Un Certain Regard, and in 2016 she served as a juror for the same strand. As such, we’re confident she’ll be making an appearance this year with her English-language debut, Little Joe, in which Emily Beecham and Ben Whishaw play scientists involved in genetic engineering. When a modified planet begins to produce curious changes in those that come into contact with it, questions about what’s real and what’s imaginary arise. Colour us intrigued. HW

18. Ahmed

Though Ahmed is currently listed as being in pre-production, Thierry Frémaux will be keeping close tabs on the Dardennes’ latest. Belgium’s favourite filmmaking sons have a remarkable track record at Cannes, having won the Palme d’Or twice (for Rosetta in 1999 and The Child in 2005). Seeking what would be their eighth nomination in as many visits to the festival, the brothers appear to have returned to their earlier winning formula, casting relative unknowns and non-professional actors in a socially-conscious drama about of a teenager who hatches a plot to kill his teacher after being seduced by religious extremism. AW

19. The Lighthouse

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are both seasoned Cannes-goers, but if The Lighthouse makes the cut this year it would be a debut for director Robert Eggers. We’re big fans of his eerie debut The Witch (which put Anya Taylor-Joy on the map) and it seems he’s upped the misery stakes this time around. Shot on 35mm in black-and-white, is stars Dafoe as a lighthouse keeper named Old in early 20th century Maine. No word on who Pattinson plays yet, but this interview between the pair about their experience working together is pretty enlightening. HW

20. Annette

In 2012, French director Leos Carax swaggered onto the Croisette with his envelope-pushing opus Hoy Motors. It may not have won any of the festival’s major awards (more fool the competition jury), but it did cement its makers reputation as one of the most daring and enigmatic filmmakers working today. Carax’s follow-up, Annette, is his first musical, and stars Michelle Williams and Adam Driver. The plot centres around a stand-up comic who becomes a single parent when his opera singer wife dies – with the screenplay and music coming care of LA art-rock duo Sparks. AW

21. Midsommar

Ari Aster was the toast of Sundance 2018 with his chilling directorial debut, Hereditary, and word on the street is that his follow-up is even more agreeably bonkers. Set in Sweden, Midsommar follows a young couple (played by Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) who travel to their friend’s rural hometown for a fabled summer festival, only to be met by a pagan cult. A24 has locked in an August release date, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see them take this one to the Croisette. HW

22. Matthias & Maxime

After the self-indulgent folly of his English-language debut, The Death and Life of John F Donovan, Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan has gone back to basics for his eighth feature. Matthias & Maxime sees Dolan himself share top billing with longtime acting collaborator Anne Dorval, but perhaps the most intriguing names on the predominantly French-speaking cast list are Antoine Pilon (not the actor of the same name from Mommy) and Beach Rats’ Harris Dickinson. It’s no secret that Dolan is desperate to get his hands on the Palme d’Or – a decade on from announcing himself in the Directors’ Fortnight with his brooding debut, I Killed My Mother, could this finally be his year? AW

23. Uncut Gems

We can’t wait to see the Safdies’ next feature, which stars Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a jeweller caught in a tight spot following a robbery (just look at the on-set photos!). He’s joined by Idina Menzel, Judd Hirsch and LaKeith Stanfield. The writer/director siblings took Daddy Longlegs and Good Time to Cannes (as well as their debut short, The Pleasure of Being Robbed), so we reckon Uncut Gems is in with a shout of being nominated for the Palme d’Or, if Netflix and Cannes resolve their spat in time. In fact, let’s call it now: 2019, year of the Sandlerssance. HW

24. Nighthawk

With a handful of exceptional shorts and two cracking features under his belt, Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho has established himself as one to watch on the world cinema scene. For his latest effort, a mysterious-sounding genre piece, Filho has promoted his trusted production designer Juliano Dornelles to the role of co-director. Sônia Braga, who earned widespread acclaim for her lead performance in Filho’s 2016 film Aquarius, stars alongside Udo Kier. AW

25. Wendy

Back in 2012, Benh Zeitlin won the Caméra d’Or for his debut feature Beasts of the Southern Wild, which also made Quvenzhané Wallis the youngest Best Actress Oscar nominee ever. His sophomore effort is inspired by Peter Pan, and went into production in 2017 on the island of Montserrat. In a similar vein to Beasts, Wendy focuses on a young girl – only this time she’s been kidnapped and brought to a mysterious island where ageing and time function differently. HW

For more on this year’s Cannes Film Festival head to festival-cannes.com

Published 2 Mar 2019

Tags: Alice Winocour Ari Aster Benh Zeitlin Benny Safdie Bong Joon-ho Cannes Céline Sciamma Greta Gerwig Hirokazu Koreeda Hou Hsiao-Hsien James Gray Jessica Hausner Jim Jarmusch Josephine Decker Josh Safdie Juliano Dornelles Justin Kurzel Ken Loach Kleber Mendonça Filho Pablo Larraín Pedro Almodóvar Quentin Tarantino Robert Eggers Roy Andersson Terrence Malick

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