The Unflinching, the Perplexing and the Masterful: Cannes Preview

An inside track on the lineup for the historic film festival’s 77th edition

Kinds of Kindness

Each year, nestled at the end of spring, the Cannes Film Festival is an opportunity for gossip, gelato, glamour and humiliation; engaging with art, artifice and outdoor parties — perhaps even in your fancy shoes. Fuelled by nostalgia for its heyday and unconstrained venture capitalism, there’s no doubt it can make for an alienating, deeply strange experience. But the French festival has a storied penchant for selecting burgeoning talent, attracting auteur star power and critical prestige, making it a fair bet for an early look at the most enthralling feats of arthouse filmmaking in the year to come.

Putting an end to months of industry whispers and armchair theories, the festival’s lineup was finally announced on Thursday. Rumours had been especially fervent regarding two of the highest-profile players in the programme: off the back of his team’s recent Oscar wins, Yorgos Lanthimos will bring Kinds of Kindness to the Croisette this year (the film’s June release acted as a keen bellwether for a potential festival presence), a tripartite ‘fable’ set in the present day. The film’s cryptic teaser trailers offer little in the way of exposition, but deliver well in terms of musical identity, general vibes and an all-star cast, featuring — but not limited to — Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Hunter Schafer and Jesse Plemons. And there’s an incredibly perplexing poster to boot. The other major release, arriving approximately four decades after its conception, is of course Megalopolis, Francis Ford Coppola’s $120m opus. Starring Adam Driver, Aubrey Plaza and others, the film is nominally a “story of political ambition, genius and conflicted love” set between Ancient Rome and “a cataclysmic future” in New York. 

Though Coppola — whose war epic Apocalypse Now won the Palme d’Or when it premiered, famously unfinished, in 1979 — is a hugely accomplished filmmaker with a proud history at the festival, the film’s path to Cannes hasn’t been an easy one. Production on Megalopolis was reportedly delayed and abandoned by the Godfather director multiple times, plagued by budgetary issues that saw Coppola decide to sell off swathes of his winery-cum-resort empire in order to fund his ambitious vision. The search for a distributor for the film is ongoing, with audience members at a recent industry screening bemoaning its experimental nature and consequent lack of commercial appeal. But the film, according to attendees, is “unflinching in how batshit it is”, described as a mixture of “Ayn Rand, Metropolis, and Caligula” with reports of an audience-interactive element and a “baffling” ending: all indicators that the rumoured death of cinema is once again no more than a myth. 

Emilia Perez

Other auteurs returning to the Croisette this year include George Miller, for his Anya Taylor-Joy-led Mad Max sequel Furiosa, and body horror master David Cronenberg with The Shrouds (originally conceived as an autobiographical Netflix series) which has been described as the director’s “most personal film.” Paul Schrader’s two-hander Oh Canada, a portrait of a tormented writer starring Richard Gere and Jacob Elordi, also features performances from Uma Thurman and Michael Imperioli. Buzz for Sean Baker’s Anora started several months ago with social media teases from indie actress and internet personality Ivy Wolk, who stars in the sex worker dramedy led by Scream alum Mikey Madison. Hollywood’s Selena Gomez and Zoe Saldaña take supporting roles in Emilia Perez, Jacques Audiard’s latest — a ‘musical crime comedy film’ co-produced by Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent Productions and costumed by the designer himself.

Franz Rogowski (as seen in Port 33) will star alongside Barry Keoghan in Bird, a narrative feature from American Honey director Andrea Arnold, an English auteur whose ruthless storytelling has tended more towards non-fiction over the past decade. A first-look image of Ben Whishaw as the eponymous Limonov has emerged with the announcement of Kirill Serebrennikov’s competition title, about the renegade life of the Russian poet and political dissident. BFI programmer Grace Barber-Plentie was among the first to point out the ignominious lack of Black filmmakers in competition: “Back to the time-honoured tradition,” she joked on X, formerly Twitter. “Viva la progress!” Meanwhile, Mumbai director Payal Kapadia is making a splash with the first Indian film to premiere in the main section for thirty years. All We Imagine as Light will be the narrative follow-up to Kapadia’s The Night of Knowing Nothing, a short non-fiction feature about the rise of Hindu nationalism that won the festival’s best documentary prize in 2021.

All We Imagine As Light

There’s sure to be some gems in this year’s Un Certain Regard programme, a sidebar section which tends to favour newer, more avant-garde directors and stories. Shot on 16mm film, Việt and Nam, from auteur Minh Quý Trương, follows two young miners as they trace a “path to the past” to find the remains of Nam’s father— before circumstances can separate them. On Becoming a Guinea Fowl, the sophomore feature from Rungano Nyoni, is a comedic family drama set in Africa, and will be distributed internationally by A24. If all that weren’t enough, the films of the Quinzaine de cinéastes (Director’s Fortnight) and the Semaine de la critique (Critics’ Week) are yet to be announced, both alternate selections with similar aims to Un Certain Regard: though the Fortnight, for instance, is “first and foremost a place for discovering new talent”, the strand also welcomes “bold works by established filmmakers”, with past contributors ranging from Martin Scorsese and Chantal Akerman to Bong Joon-ho and Susan Sontag. 

Việt and Nam

Port will be attending this year’s edition, so stay tuned for exclusive coverage. To see the full official selection, visit the Cannes Film Festival site.

The Cannes Film Festival runs from 14th May – 25th May