France figures highly this year at the Cannes Festival. As Auréliano Tonet noted in his lead article in the special Cannes edition of Le Monde, out of the 75 or so films competing for various prizes across all official and parallel programs, 33 are French. And that’s a boon for cinephiles, indeed. Because as the American majors have been busy turning out a circus-styled sequel-and-3-D performance and some key indie-minded filmmakers made their fortunes elsewhere—Lena Dunham and HBO, case in point—an uneasy vacuum has been created: auteurist American productions are truly few and far between. Meanwhile French production has yielded some quality works by experienced filmmakers and newcomers alike where inventiveness and shoe-string budgets coalesce with the urgency to create.
Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”) shot “The Past” in Paris with Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”) and Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet”). Mathieu Amalric (“Munich,” 2005) is in two films, if I’ve counted right: he appears in Roman Polanski’s “Venus in Fur” as well as Arnaud Desplechin’s “Jimmy P.: psychotherapy of a plains Indian,” which I am very curious to discover. Three French productions with which Europe’s leading lady can make an impression on the jury presided over by Steven Spielberg.
Several other French productions round out this year’s program, like “Michael Kohlhaas” starring Mads “Casino Royale” Mikkelsen, the new Mahamat-Saleh Haroun film “Gris Gris” and “Young and Beautiful” by François Ozon, to name a few. A delightful program, which when complemented by some strong contenders (from the U.S. and elsewhere) make this year’s edition one of the potentially strongest in the festival’s recent history.