10 To See at Cannes

With Cannes nearly upon us, and London Student packing our bags for the Croisette this Tuesday, there’s no better time to run down our top 10 most anticipated films at the festival! 2019 looks to be a vintage year, so choosing these from a cornucopia of stellar content was tough, but we’ve arrived at a list that we think reflects the most interesting pictures on the Croisette.

  1. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

It’s hard to imagine a world where Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, probably the most anticipated film of the year, could not be our most anticipated film at Cannes. The late-60’s set LA noir is a potential make or break film for Quentin Tarantino and may still prove to be his penultimate work. Despite a fantastic teaser trailer release last month, we still don’t know too much about the movie, other than that it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as actor Rick Dalton, and Brad Pitt as his stunt double. Margot Robbie is cast as Sharon Tate, although it’s unclear how her story (and that of Manson) will fit into the overall narrative.

By speeding up the editing process for Cannes and premiering on May 21st – exactly 25 years after Pulp Fiction – the veteran director can only have gold on his mind, both at the festival and during the next awards season. As Variety noted earlier, the Cannes process will cost Sony an arm and a leg, and they wouldn’t have gone through with it if they didn’t have absolute faith in the film. Although we obviously can’t say whether the stars will align to make Once Upon a Time in Hollywood one for the ages, we can dream.

Due to its late inclusion in the programme, only a couple of screenings have been scheduled, and, alas, seats may be hard to come by, but we’ll try our best!

2. THE LIGHTHOUSE

Another of the most anticipated releases of the year (it’s certainly in the top 5), Rob Egger’s follow-up to his critical smash hit The Witch sees him doubling down on the weirdness with a black and white, 1800’s-set horror (? I think?) staring an emaciated Robert Pattinsion and Willem Dafoe as lighthouse keepers on a remote island. We assume things will go wrong.

It’s an interesting, confident move from Eggers to make this sort of thing – even less commercial than his debut (and even stranger than fellow art-horror alumni Ari Aster’s second feature appears to be). I’m intrigued to see how A24 tries to sell it to a general audience (assuming it does well at Cannes and the studio doesn’t decide to bury it like it did Under the Silver Lake), and how that audience will receive it. In any case, here’s hoping this is 2019’s great horror film.

3. ZOMBI CHILD

A slightly renegade pick for our top 3, Bertrand Bonello’s Zombi Child, about a mid-20th-century Haitian zombie and its ancestor (?) in modern-day France, looks disarmingly odd. But the real reason we’re stoked to see it is the director’s last picture, Nocturama, which weaved a morally dubious tale of teenage terrorists around a discussion of the sensual all-consuming appeal of surface and image. A film so divisive that it scared Cannes off, Nocturama was one of the great, unfortunately under-seen releases of 2016 (it’s on Netflix if you want to check it out), and it’ll be great to see what Bonello comes up with next. The new offering from an exciting contemporary voice in cinema.

4. FIRST LOVE

Another year, another Miike, but First Love looks like a vintage piece of work. Despite releasing over 100 films, Miike has only been featured on the Croisette four times, so it’s a good omen that his latest has reached Director’s Fortnight. Already equipped with a gorgeous poster, the film follows a new couple who are pursued through a neon-lit Tokyo over the course of a single night by a collection of unsavoury characters. So far, so good.

Miike’s ultra-violent, grand 2017 epic Blade of the Immortal was an absolutely stunning, rip-roaringly fun piece of work, and we can’t wait to see what he does with this typically lurid, beautifully simple premise.

5. LUX  ÆTERNA

A mysterious, surprise mid-length (it’s around 50 minutes long) by Gaspar Noe? Count us in. Little is known about the plot, except that it’s about filmmaking, involves witches, and stars Charlotte Gainsbourg alongside Béatrice Dalle. That information alone, and that beautiful picture are enough to cement this film at number 5 on our list.

6. TOO OLD TO DIE YOUNG

Another slightly controversial pick, Cannes is screening two episodes of Nic Refn’s hotly anticipated Amazon TV series, Too Old to Die Young. Refn is one of those directors whose every offering is something unique, uncompromising, and totally worth watching. This series (10 episodes, which composer Cliff Martinez has stated each run to about 90 minutes, although the accuracy of that statement is yet to be proved) has faced a painfully long gestation period, and recently received a ravishing, eye-popping trailer that confirmed, if nothing else, that this thing will be fucking beautiful (and ultra-violent). Typical fare for Refn then.

Intriguingly, the screening, titled North of Hollywood, West of Hell (love it), is premiering footage from the 4th and 5th episodes of the series, as opposed to the 1st and 2nd, so we’ll have to see just how much sense that makes, and why it matters, later in the month.

7. THE WILD GOOSE LAKE

Diao Yinan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice was an absolutely stellar noir mired in the hopelessness of late-stage capitalist China. It’s on the strength of that film, and that beautiful still above, that we’re super excited for his follow-up, The Wild Goose Lake. The only plot synopsis we currently have is “A gangster on the run sacrifices everything for his family and a woman he meets while on the lam” but this is sure to be a bleak, stunningly shot piece of action/noir cinema.

8. THE HALT

A return of Lav Diaz to the Croisette for the first time since his acclaimed Norte, The End of History, this 4hr35min long film (relatively spritely for a Diaz) has variously been described as a political thriller and as a black-and-white science fiction film.

It’s always interesting to see what Diaz comes up with next, although a constant worry is that the Fillipino filmmaker has made ‘long’ his sole brand. The test will be whether The Halt warrants such a ridiculous run-time, but with a plot like this: “It is the year 2034 AD and Southeast Asia has been in the dark for the last three years, literally, because the sun hasn’t shone as a result of massive volcanic eruptions at the Celebes Sea in 2031. Madmen control countries, communities, enclaves and bubble cities. Cataclysmic epidemics razed over the continent. Millions have died and millions have left” we’re sure it’s going to be great.

9. PAIN AND GLORY

A new film by Pedro Almodóvar is always good news, but Pain and Glory looks to be extra special. The film, which appears to be a riff on 8 ½, explores the Spanish director’s own life and work – something sure to go down a hit in Cannes. The film has already earned 5* rave reviews from its release in Spain, so here’s hoping it really is worth its salt.

10. A HIDDEN LIFE

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It’s been a while since 2011, where Malick’s Tree of Life premiered In Competition. Since then, a new film by the veteran director has ceased to become an event as he becomes ever more self-absorbed and pseudo-philosophical whilst having ever-less to actually say.

By virtue of being selected to play In Competition, A Hidden Life (formerly Radegund) looks to hark back to Malick’s glory days. With an intriguing storyline about a conscientious objector in Nazi Germany, and a protracted production that’s been long-gestating, hopes are up that the film will be a long-awaited return to form. We hope so too.

See you next week for all the news, thrills, and spills of the festival, and, until then, enjoy your weekend.


James is an undergraduate law student at UCL, and London Student's Chief Arts Editor/Film Editor. He wants you to know that Christopher Nolan is overrated.

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