Last night the official selection was announced for the Cannes Film Festival. Characterised by the organisers as a “renewal year”, 2006 does welcome a few new filmmakers to its very exclusive members club, while rewarding loyal regulars with coveted competition slots.
Wong Kar-Wai will preside over this year’s jury, which features the usual mix of international actors (Monica Bellucci, Zhang Ziyi, Helena Bonham Carter, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth) and directors (Patrice Leconte, Lucrecia Martel, Elia Suleiman), but this year excludes academics, producers or writers. The Caméra d’Or jury (Best First Feature) will be presided over by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, double Palme D’Or-winners for Rosetta and The Child.
The official selection is made up of 55 films (including a mind-boggling 48 world premieres) representing 30 countries. However only 20 of these are in competition for the Palme D’Or.
The Festival opens with the dreaded adaptation of the over-rated and over-read The Da Vinci Code, from the Bland-and-Blander team of Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. The out-of-competition Cannes opener is usually a star-filled, paparazzi-baiting affair and is rarely taken seriously.
Not so the Official Competition. Once again, some of the world’s most respected auteurs return: 2006 sees eagerly awaited new films from Nanni Moretti (Golden Palm in 2001 with The Son’s Room), Aki Kaurismäki (Grand Prix 2002 for The Man Without a Past) and Ken Loach (Prize for Best Script in 2002 with Sweet Sixteen). Riding great advance buzz from its Spanish screenings is Volver, the new film from Cannes-habitué Pedro Almodovar (Best Director Prize in 1999 for All About My Mother) starring Penelope Cruz.
Along with many movie bloggers out there, I’m quite excited about the new crop of American indies making the cut: Sofia Coppola’s intriguing period piece Marie Antoinette, Richard Linklater’s ensemble drama Fast Food Nation and Richard Kelly’s follow-up to Donnie Darko, the sci-fi musical Southland Tales. At 30, Kelly will be the youngest director in the 2006 competition.
Mexican genre-maestro Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy) will climb the stairs of the Palais for the first time with Pan’s Labyrinth. Meanwhile, the red carpet may self-combust under the feet of the red-hot cast of Babel — Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu’s follow-up to Amores Perros and 21 Grams stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael Garcia Bernal.
Other confirmed red carpet guests include Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Jean Reno, Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Cillian Murphy, Kirsten Dunst, Judy Davis, Asia Argento, Marianne Faithfull, Steve Coogan, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, The Rock, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gérard Depardieu, Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Ben Gazzara, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gena Rowlands, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, and Kris Kristofferson.
Out-of-competition screenings include the usual summer blockbuster launches (Over the Hedge, X-Men: The Last Stand, United 93) but also some exciting new work such as the Al Gore global warming cautionary tale An Inconvenient Truth and John Cameron Mitchell’s pan-sexual NYC ensemble Shortbus.
French actor Vincent Cassell (also partner to jury member Monica Bellucci) will MC the Opening and Closing Night Galas. The Festival starts May 17th.
All in all it’s a mouth-watering program, perhaps lacking in controversy and a little heavy on the Hollywood heavyweights, but certainly likely to offer up a few surprises. I’ll be blogging from France next month, and keeping you up to date on the buzz.
In the meantime, you can find the official line-up at the Cannes website.