Last Updated: June 15, 2021By Tags:

PARIS–The upsetting of our way of life, having a drink at the terrasse of a café with someone you love, reading, or watching people go by, to say nothing of taking in a movie at the theater (in a country where Netflix is thriving, theater attendance here remains strong), by the coronavirus pandemic, has been felt painfully. It was only this week when things began looking normal again, with throngs eagerly taking over watering holes and restaurants.

I didn’t go to the press conference this year, which was unusual (living in Paris comes with the privilege, one among many, of attending the Cannes Festival’s pre-game), I watched it on Youtube afterwards, instead, and I was struck by the heavy French presence in the official selection unveiled on that day. Like the Aesopian reed, French cinema’s spirit did not break because the coronavirus pandemic; the country that invented cinema, in fact, is leading this year’s Cannes Festival program with a fat crop of films, seeing some filmmakers returning to the Croisette after a long absence in the process.

Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Marina Foïs in “La Fracture”

Catherine Corsini (“An Impossible Love,”“Three Worlds”) is coming back after almost a decade’s absence from the festival with “La Fracture.” Co-written by the director, “La Fracture” is about two protagonists, Raf (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and Julie (Marina Foïs). On the verge a breakup they find themselves in the E.R. on the night of a major Parisian demonstration. The overwhelmed staff, the injured and angry demonstrators will shatter the certainties, uncertainties and prejudices of the two women, as will their meeting Yann, a wounded protester. Outside, tensions rise and soon the hospital is under attack.

Bruno Dumont, whose 2016 effort “Slack Bay” (“Ma Loute” in the French original) shown in Cannes had held lots of comedic promise but was a bit of a dud after all is back with “France,” starring Léa Seydoux as a star TV journalist. Other names are mention-worthy, Mia Hansen-Løve, who’s been blazing her own trail, brings “Bergman Island” to Cannes, François Ozon (“Tout s’est bien passé”), with a film that was adapted from a book by Emmanuèle Bernheim (she co-wrote the screenplay for “Vendredi” by Claire Denis, among others) in which she recounts how she helped end her father’s life after he suffered a debilitating stroke.

SEE ALSO: a 2012 interview with Catherine Corsini about “Three Worlds”

On other fronts two items of note, the return of Ari Folman, whose “Waltz with Bashir” (2008) sent jolts through the Cannes Festival that year, a film that stood out for the lucidity of the writing and the period of history it highlighted, with justness and objectivity. Folman contributed “Where is Anne Frank?” to this year’s lineup. Also, Shlomi Elkabetz, a writer, director and actor, has made a documentary about his sister, Ronit Elkabetz (“The Band’s Visit”) who passed away in 2016, “Cahiers Noirs.”

Juho Kuosmanen

During the press conference, held at the Normandy theater on the Champs Elysees for the last five years (I preferred the gilded finery of the Grand Hotel, where the “conf de presse” took place in years past, even though the seats were awful uncomfortable) Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux, president and delegate general, respectively, sat on the dais, each taking turn talking, Lescure reminiscing about what a strange year and a half this was and going over the health-related measures put in place to ensure a safe festival for everyone in attendance, and Frémaux gave out the names of the films selected in the various selections (you’ll find the complete list below) with some feedback about the process of selecting these films, the higher-than-usual number of entries (the selection, packed to the gills, is about 15% large than usual and includes a new section, Cannes premieres; on that note, Frémaux’s team is reorienting Un Certain Regard towards its original intended purpose, as had been dreamed up by Lescure’s predecessor, Gilles Jacob, on whose original idea the UCR slate is based, which was to show edgier, more independent works—the selection, in recent years, having apparently lost its way.

Julia Ducournau

It’s not really known how many of the usual 6,000 festival-goers will be in Cannes this year. Festival attendees from some red-listed countries such as Turkey or the Philippines might not make it, to say nothing of the filmmakers bringing a movie to Cannes this year (Hasan Semih, whose film”Commitment Hasan” will be shown as part of the non-competition panel, among others). Other festival-goers may choose not to come because it’s too soon, though, to be sure, they will be missing out. “Probably less than usual” Frémaux and Lescure let on. Although Frémaux barely mentioned it one can’t help but reckon what a difficult eighteen months he and his team must’ve lived through. The sleepless nights, the disappointments when certain filmmakers skedaddled to other festivals in the hope that their film would be seen there, the pressure from the festival’s board. And then there was the money matters. The area where the city of Cannes is located, called “région” in France’s administrative patois, takes in—or in the case of last year, loses—$20M thanks to the Cannes Festival each year—more pressure there, one assumes, on the festival’s hierarchy?

All these travails will not have been in vain, this year’s selection is the biggest one I’ve seen in a while and holds great promise for French, and international, cinema.

Here’s the selection in detail:


Opening movie
“Annette” (Directed by Leos Carax; France)

“A feleségem története” (Enyedi Ildikó; Hungary)
“Benedetta” (Paul Verhoeven; Holland)
“Bergman Island” (Mia Hansen-Løve, France)
“Drive my car” (Ryusuke Hamaguchi; Japan)
“Flag Day” (Sean Penn)
“Ha’berech” (Nadav Lapid; Israel)
“Haut et fort” (Nabil Ayouch; Morocco)
“Hytti NRO 6” (Juho Kuosmanen; Finland)
“Julie [in 12 chapters]” (Joachim Trier; Norway)
“La fracture” (Catherine Corsini; France)
“Les intranquilles” (Joachim Lafosse; France)
“Les Olympiades” (Jacques Audiard; France)
“Lingui” (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun; Chad)
“Memoria” (Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Thailand)
“Nitram” (Justin Kurzel)
“France” (Bruno Dumont, France)
“Petrov’s Flu” (Kirill Serebrennikov; Russia)
“Red Rocket” (Sean Baker)
“The French dispatch” (Wes Anderson)
“Titane” (Julia Ducournau; France)
“Tre Piani” (Nanni Moretti; Italy)
“Tout s’est bien passé” (François Ozon; France)
“Un héro” (Asghar Farhadi; Iran)


“De son vivant” (Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot; France)
“Where is Anne Frank?” (Ari Folman, Israel)
“Emergency Declaration” (Han Jae-Rim; Korea)
“The Velvet Underground” (Todd Haynes)
“Bac Nord” (Cédric Jimenez; France)
“Aline” (Valérie Lemercier; France)
“Stillwater” (Tom McCarthy)


“Supremes” (Directed by Audrey Estrougo; France)
“Tralala” (Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu; France)
“Oranges Sanguines” (Jean-Christophe Meurisse; France)


“Serre-moi fort” (Directed by Mathieu Amalric; France)
“Cow” (Andrea Arnold; U.K.)
“Cette musique ne joue pour personne” (Samuel Benchetrit; France)
“Tromperie” (Arnaud Desplechin; France)
“Jane par Charlotte” (Charlotte Gainsbourg; France)
“In front of your face” (Hong Sang-Soo; Korea)
“Mothering Sunday” (Eva Husson; France)
“Evolution” (Kornél Mundruczó; Hungary)
“Vortex” (Gaspar Noé; France)
“Val” (Ting Poo and Leo Scott)
“JFK revisited: through the looking glass” (Oliver Stone)


“O marinheiro das montanas” (Directed by Karim Aïnouz; Brazil)
“Cahiers Noirs” (Shlomi Elkabetz; Israel)
“Babi yar. Contexte” (Sergei Loznitsa; Ukraine)
“Mi iubita, mon amour” (Noémie Merlant, France)
“New Worlds : the cradle of civilization” (Andrew Muscato)
“Les Héroïques” (Maxime Roy; France)
“Are you lonesome tonight?” (Shipei Wen, China)
“H6” (Yé Yé; France)
“The year of the everlasting storm” (Jafar Panahi; Iran, Anthony Chen; Singapore, Malik Vitthal,
Laura Poitras, Dominga Sotomayor; Chile, David Lowery and Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Thailand).


“Moneyboys” (Directed by C.B. Yi, Austria)
“Blue bayou” (Justin Chon)
“Freda” (Gessica Geneus, Haïti)
“Delo” (Alexey German, Jr., Russia)
“Bonne mère” (Hafsia Herzi; France)
“Noche de fuego” (Tatiana Huezo; Mexico)
“Lamb” (Valdimar Johansson; Iceland)
“Commitment Hasan” (Semih Kaplanoglu; Turkey)
“After Yang” (Kogonada, Korea)
“Et il y eut un matin” (Eran Kolirin; Israel)
“Les poings dessérés” (Kira Kovalenko; Russia)
“Mes frères et moi” (Yohan Manca; France)
“Women do cry” (Mina Mileva; Bulgaria and Vesela Kazakova; id.)
“Rehana Maryam Noor” (Abdullah Mohammad Saad; Bangladesh)
“Great freedom” (Sebastian Meise; Austria)
“La civil” (Teodora Ana Mihai; Romania / Belgium)
“Gaey Wa’r” (Na Jiazuo; China)
“The Innocents” (Eskil Vogt; Norway)
“Un monde” (Laura Wandel; Belgium)

*This new section of the Cannes Festival official selection launched in 2021

Featured image: still from “Blue Bayou” (directed by Justin Chon)

A still from “Mi iubita mon amour,” directed by Noémie Merlant (second from right)

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