Cannes film fest returns with comebacks, strikes, Trump and MeToo

PARIS – The Cannes Film Festival starts Tuesday with an action-packed script including the comeback of Hollywood icons, fears of a strike, a Donald Trump biopic and the shadow of MeToo accusations.

The return of “The Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola with his decades-in-the-making epic “Megalopolis” is the most anticipated of this year’s entries for the top prize Palme d’Or. 

It is one of 22 films competing for the affections of a jury led by “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig, which will announce its verdict on May 25. 

Those walking the red carpet include actors Richard Gere, Demi Moore and Kevin Costner, all present in new films. Three-time Oscar-winner Meryl Streep and “Star Wars” creator George Lucas will also receive honorary awards.

And the latest from George Miller’s “Mad Max” universe, “Furiosa”, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, will also get its world premiere on Wednesday.

But there are darker plotlines at the 77th edition of the festival.

France’s film industry is in the midst of a belated MeToo reckoning, with a string of accusations against its biggest star, Gerard Depardieu, and rumours in the run-up to Cannes of more accusations to come against high-profile figures.

Actor Judith Godreche, who has accused two directors of assaulting her when she was a teenager, is presenting a short film, “Moi Aussi” (Me Too) aimed at encouraging more women to come forward.

Meanwhile, one of the directors in competition, Iran’s award-winning Mohammad Rasoulof, has just been jailed in his home country on security charges days before he was due to present “The Seed of the Sacred Fig”. 

And a group of festival employees have called for a strike over pay and conditions that could cause disruption at the event. 

Trump, Coppola, Stone

Among the entries for the Palme d’Or is “The Apprentice”, a biopic of Trump’s formative years from Iranian-born director Ali Abbasi. It stars Sebastian Stan, known for playing the Winter Soldier in Marvel films.   

And “Emilia Perez” has quite the synopsis: a musical about a Mexican cartel boss undergoing a sex change to escape the authorities, directed by France’s own Golden Palm winner Jacques Audiard. Pop superstar Selena Gomez appears in a supporting role.

But the hot ticket is undoubtedly Coppola’s “Megalopolis” on Thursday. A Roman epic set in modern-day New York, it stars Adam Driver as a visionary architect seeking to rebuild the crumbling city.

There is a growing sense of anticipation over whether the 85-year-old director can match his masterpieces of the 1970s, when he twice won the Palme d’Or for “Apocalypse Now” and “The Conversation”.

Elsewhere, Emma Stone reunites with director Yorgos Lanthimos, fresh from their Oscar triumph with “Poor Things”, for “Kinds of Kindness”.

It co-stars up-and-coming actor Margaret Qualley, daughter of Andie McDowell, who also features in Demi Moore’s unlikely comeback, slasher-horror “The Substance”.

Film fans are also excited for new works from body-horror maestro David Cronenberg (“The Shrouds”), Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino (“Parthenope”) and Oliver Stone (“Lula”, a documentary about Brazil’s president).

Playing out of competition, Costner returns to his favourite genre, the Western, with the epic “Horizon, an American Saga”. 

And one of China’s biggest-ever productions, “She’s Got No Name”, features megastar Ziyi Zhang tackling the highly sensitive topic of women’s rights. 

Legendary Japanese animators Studio Ghibli — makers of “Spirited Away”, “My Neighbour Totoro” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” — will receive an honorary Palme d’Or, the first offered to a group. –AFP

The films competing at the Cannes Film Festival

Here are the 22 films competing for the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14-25, and some of the films showing out of competition.

In competition 

‘Megalopolis’ (Francis Ford Coppola)

This self-funded epic — a Roman drama transplanted to modern-day New York starring Adam Driver — has been in the works for more than 40 years. Coppola has twice won the Palme d’Or — for “The Conversation” (1974) and “Apocalypse Now” (1979).

‘The Apprentice’ (Ali Abbasi)

A biopic about Donald Trump’s formative years from an award-winning Iranian director is bound to grab attention. It stars Sebastian Stan, best-known as the Winter Soldier in Marvel films and rocker Tommy Lee in series “Pam and Tommy”, alongside Jeremy Strong of “Succession” fame as Trump’s lawyer. 

‘Kinds of Kindness’ (Yorgos Lanthimos)

Three short stories in one, this is the latest team-up between the Greek director and Emma Stone, just weeks after she won an Oscar for “Poor Things”, also starring Willem Defoe and Margaret Qualley. 

‘The Shrouds’ (David Cronenberg)

The horror maestro’s latest supernatural drama is about a man who builds a device to connect with his dead wife — a deeply personal project for the Canadian director who lost his wife in 2017. It stars Vincent Cassel and Diane Kruger.

‘Oh, Canada’ (Paul Schrader)

The iconic writer-director has been on a roll lately with a string of dramas about obsessive and dangerous men. He reunites with his “American Gigolo” star Richard Gere for the story of a dying man reflecting on his past mistakes.

‘Emilia Perez’ (Jacques Audiard)

Quite the synopsis — a musical about a Mexican cartel boss undergoing a sex change to escape the authorities, with pop superstar Selena Gomez in a supporting role. The unpredictable French director has tried many genres, from “The Prophet” and “Rust and Bone” to his Palme d’Or-winning “Dheepan”.

‘The Substance’ (Coralie Fargeat)

An unlikely comeback vehicle for Demi Moore — an ultra-violent horror film from the French director of 2017’s “Revenge” that will “leave a lot of blood on the screen”, according to festival director Thierry Fremaux. 

‘The Most Precious of Cargoes’ (Michel Hazanavicius)

The first animation in competition since 2008’s “Waltz With Bashir” is the tale of a twin thrown to safety from a death train transporting his Jewish parents to Auschwitz, from the director of the Oscar-winning “The Artist”. 

‘Limonov’ (Kirill Serebrennikov)

The exiled Russian director tackles the bizarre true life of dissident poet Eduard Limonov, who fled the Soviet Union but returned to found a new Bolshevik Party after the Cold War. 

‘Parthenope’ (Paolo Sorrentino)

Another love letter to his native Naples from the Oscar-winning director of “The Great Beauty” and Netflix series “The Young Pope”. 

‘Bird’ (Andrea Arnold)

The celebrated British auteur returns with a coming-of-age tale set in an English suburb, starring Barry Keoghan (“Saltburn”). Arnold won an Oscar for short film “Wasp” and made acclaimed features “Red Road” and “Fish Tank”. 

‘The Seed of the Sacred Fig’ (Mohammad Rasoulof)

Imprisoned for criticising Iran’s government and barred from leaving the country, Rasoulof has already faced pressure to pull his latest film from the Cannes line-up. Its plot remains under wraps.

‘Anora’ (Sean Baker)

A darling of the US indie scene for his portraits of marginalised characters in “The Florida Project” and “Red Rocket”, Baker returns with a “romantic adventure” starring “Scream” actress Mikey Madison. 

‘The Girl with the Needle’ (Magnus von Horn)

Loosely based on the story of a Danish serial killer who helped poor women kill their unwanted children in the early 20th century. 

‘Motel Destino’ (Karim Ainouz)

An erotic comedy-thriller from the Brazilian director of Henry VIII drama “Firebrand”, which competed in Cannes last year.

‘Grand Tour’ (Miguel Gomes)

The story of a British colonial officer in Burma who flees his wedding but is pursued by his bride. 

‘Marcello Mio’ (Christophe Honore)

The fictional tale of a woman who starts impersonating her father, the late Italian screen icon Marcello Mastroianni. It features French icon Catherine Deneuve.

‘Caught by the Tides’ (Jia Zhang-Ke)

One of China’s most celebrated auteurs offers a view of the country “we are not necessarily used to seeing”, according to Fremaux.

‘All We Imagine As Light’ (Payal Kapadia)

The first Indian entry in 30 years tells the intimate stories of a Mumbai nurse and her roommate.

‘Beating Hearts (Gilles Lellouche)

The French actor-director adapts an Irish novel, “Jackie Loves Johnser OK?”, with Francois Civil and Adele Exarchopoulos. 

‘Wild Diamond’ (Agathe Riedinger)

A debut film about a young French girl seeking fame on reality TV.

‘Three Kilometres to the End of the World’ (Emanuel Parvu)

A surprise last-minute entry about a gay teenager ostracised by his village community in Romania.

Out of competition

Here is a selection of the films playing in the ‘Out of Competition’ and ‘Special Screenings’ sections of the festival. 

  • ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ (George Miller)
  • ‘Horizon, An American Saga’ (Kevin Costner)
  • ‘Lula’ (Oliver Stone)
  • ‘She’s Got No Name’ (Peter Ho-Sun)
  • ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ (Alexandre de la Patelliere and Matthieu Delaporte)
  • ‘Rumours’ (Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson and Guy Maddin)
  • ‘Ernest Cole, Lost and Found’ (Raoul Peck)
  • ‘The Invasion’ (Sergei Loznitsa)