The 2018 Cannes Film Festival begins on Tuesday, welcoming some of the best that international cinema has to offer, presided over and assessed by a very starry jury. Cate Blanchett is the head juror for the main competition, and shes joined by Kristen Stewart, Ava DuVernay, Léa Seydoux, and Denis Villeneuve, among others. What will they, and the rest of us here at Cannes, have screened for them? Lets take a look.
The buzziest American film at Cannes this year is probably Spike LeesBlacKkKlansman, a based-on-a-true-story drama about a black detective, Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington, a rising actor and Denzel Washingtons son), who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan and becomes the head of a local chapter. The film, which has good advanced buzz, also stars Adam Driver, Topher Grace, and Corey Hawkins. Lee debuted Do the Right Thing at Cannes in 1989; hopefully this is an overdue return to form for him.
The other big American title in competition is Under the Silver Lake, an A24 film from David Robert Mitchell, who helped kick off the “elevated horror” trend with It Follows, a sensation at Cannes in 2014. This one is a kind of noir comedy starring Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, and the unexpected mascot of Cannes 2018, Topher Grace. If the movie plays well, it could confirm Mitchell as a major talent. The film is being released in the U.S. in June, so its likely not an Oscar play, but it could be an interesting bit of summer counter-programming.
Also returning to Cannes—seven years after his disastrous, Nazi-sympathizing press conference for Melancholia—is Lars von Trier, who has a movie called The House That Jack Built screening out of competition. (That its not in competition might be something of a punishment?) The movie stars Matt Dillon as a serial killer, along with Uma Thurman and Riley Keough. The film is likely to be intense and miserable, like so many of von Triers movies—but maybe it will be brilliant too, like some of his movies.
Solo—with Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, and Emilia Clarke—is also screening out of competition, a splashy international debut for a movie whose production was troubled and has suffered from bad buzz. The last movie in the Star Wars universe to premiere at Cannes was Revenge of the Sith in 2005. Take that as you will. Theres also Terry GilliamsThe Man Who Killed Don Quixote, a project so pained and long in the making that theres a documentary about it. That one is tangled up in some legal drama at the time of this publishing, so it remains to be seen if the film can in fact close the festival out next week.
This is Cannes, though, and the bulk of the promising titles screening this year are not English-language. Beginning the festival is the domestic thriller Everybody Knows, from two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi and starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem. The festival clearly chose this film as its opening-night entry to kick things off with a starry bang. But opening-night films dont tend to linger in the memory for very long at Cannes, so in some ways its an odd—or, perhaps, telling—choice to put Farhadi at the front.
Im quite curious about Ash Is Purest White, from lauded Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke, whose last Cannes film, Mountains May Depart, was on V.F.s list of the 10 best movies of 2016. A love story set across the span of the 21st century that weve lived through so far, Ash Is Purest White stars longtime Jia mainstay Tao Zhao. Hopefully the two can make wistful, enlightening magic together again.
Amazon is coming to Cannes with the film Cold War, a European country-hopping romance set during the 1950s. Polish director Pawel Pawlikowskis last film, Ida, won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2015, so eyes are definitely on this one as a Palme dOr contender. Ida, shot in rich black and white, is somehow both intense and delicate, a film graced by a subtle artistry that one hopes Pawlikowski will bring to his new feature.
Revered South Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong has a film called Burning in competition this year. Lee is no stranger to Cannes. He last had the lauded Alzheimers drama Poetry here, in 2010, and in 2007 actress Jeon Do-yeon won best actress at the festival for Secret Sunshine.Burning is described as a mystery drama about three young people who experience some kind of “incident.” We expect the film to be spare and searching and, typical of Lee, lacking in sentiment. In a good way!
There are a number of queer films at Cannes this year. Perhaps the most anticipated is Rafiki, from Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu. Her film has been banned in her native country because of its gay themes—Rafiki tells the story of two teenage girls who fall in love, in defiance of their families and communitys disapproval. The film will screen in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, where it will likely gain a fair amount of attention from an international audience eager to embrace and champion a film thats been rejected at home.
Im also eager to see main competition entry Sorry Angel, from writer-director Christophe Honoré. About a 39-year-old writers love affair with a younger man, the film is billed as a drama. But the poster features three men laughing in bed together, so Im hoping for at least some levity and sexiness—albeit of the melancholy, lovelorn, French variety.
Screening in Un Certain Regard is Girl, from Belgian director Lukas Dhont. The film, about a transgender girl who longs to be a ballet dancer, is Dhonts first feature film, though he already seems to have some momentum in the international film world, owed to an acclaimed short and some music-video work. (His good looks dont hurt either, Im sure.)
Another queer film at the festival, this one in the main competition, is Knife + Heart, starring Vanessa Paradis. Directed by second-time feature director Yann Gonzalez (whose debut, You and the Night, was well received at Cannes in 2013), Knife + Heart has probably my favorite premise of any film in competition: Paradis plays a gay porn producer in 1970s Paris who finds herself entangled in a murder mystery. Further sweetening the pot is that Gonzalezs brothers band, M83, has composed the score.
Back to the old guard. One would be unwise to count out Turkish Cannes mainstay and past Palme dOr winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who has The Wild Pear Tree in competition this year. Ceylans films are long and slow, but that process can produce some beautiful stews. And then theres The Image Book, from an unknown upstart named Jean-Luc Godard. An abstraction in five parts, the 87-year-old directors latest could prove alienating or enrapturing or both.
Provocateur Gaspar Noé will have a film in the Directors Fortnight sidebar, called Climax. I have no idea what its about, but based on the title and Noés previous work, it will likely be a staid chamber drama about people sitting around and talking, fully clothed. Noés last movie at Cannes, the 3-D splatter-fest (not blood, mind you) Love, had a buzzy midnight screening that was so packed that this writer was cruelly denied entry. This year, both a documentary about Whitney Houston from Touching the Void director Kevin Macdonald and HBOs Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon, will get midnight screenings.
Stay tuned to VF.com for reviews, reporting, and photography from the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, which runs from May 8 to May 19.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:Cannes Film Festival Through The AgesPreviousNext
Richard LawsonRichard Lawson is a columnist for Vanity Fair's Hollywood, reviewing film and television and covering entertainment news and gossip. He lives in New York City.