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Cannes Film Festival rebounds with bigger names, but less frenzy on the ground

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

CANNES, France -- What a difference a year makes. Or does it? With the preeminent cinematic event that is the Festival de Cannes, both ways is the way it's always going to be.

Cannes 2018 was not a high point for the fest, which will launch for the 72nd time Tuesday night. The Neflix kerfuffle and a scarcity of female directors and top American films led to headlines like the one in Variety which proclaimed, "Fall Festivals Eclipse Cannes."

Though the standoff with Netflix continues, Cannes 2019 has taken steps to remedy the other situations, shaking things up in ways large and small and even changing the designation of the final movie shown from "Closing Film" to "Last Screening."

Four films by women, tying a Cannes record, are in competition, including "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" by France's Celine Sciamma, who directed the excellent "Girlhood," and the Senegal-set feature debut "Atlantique," directed by Mati Diop. If her name sounds familiar, her uncle was the great Sengalese director Djibril Diop Mambety.

As far as American films, marquee value auteurs are certainly represented, including Quentin Tarantino's much anticipated "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" and "A Hidden Life," a new drama from Terrence Malick about a conscientious objector in Nazi Germany.

And then there is Jim Jarmusch, whose ensemble zombie comedy "The Dead Don't Die" opens the festival Tuesday with stars including Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton and Selena Gomez and is being promoted in France with the tagline "A Cast to Raise the Dead."

 

Room has even been found for American directors usually found at Sundance. Ira Sachs ("Love Is Strange"), for instance, is in competition with the Isabelle Huppert-starring "Frankie," while Robert Eggers, last seen with "The Witch," brings his sophomore effort "The Lighthouse" -- starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson -- to the parallel Directors Fortnight event.

As to the kind of world cinema big names who are a regular feature at the festival, this year also has a strong collection. Among the most talked about returnees are:

Spain's Pedro Almodovar with the quasi-autobiographical "Pain and Glory" starring Antonio Banderas;

France's Arnaud Desplechin with "Oh Mercy!," a policier set, as many of his recent films have been, in his birthplace of Roubaix;

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