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The 66th Annual Cannes Festival

Cannes is my favourite arena for movie discoveries big and small, and a few days into the 66th annual festival I’m eagerly taking notes of which movies will be worth looking out for in the coming months.

The great thing about Cannes is the refined blend of well-established talent and new names, not discriminated in either direction the size, genre or recognition of a name or project, which results in a wholesome selection of big and small, familiar and new, English-speaking or foreign, all with picked strictly because of their contribution to the art of cinema.

Last year, despite being considered by some as a weak year at Cannes, we found among the selection ‘The Hunt’, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, ‘Amour’, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, ‘Killing Them Softly.and ‘Laurence Anyways’. There are still a handful of acclaimed movies from last year’s festival I haven’t had the opportunity to see yet (‘Rust and Bone’, ‘In Another Country’, ‘Like Someone in Love’), and some which still have yet to be released (‘Mud’). Sufficed to say that if this is the reaping of a weak year at Cannes, a lot of high-quality movie time is guaranteed in any given year.

On to this year’s movies. A few of them are already well-known prior to their festival screenings, such as the long-awaited opening movie, Baz Luhrman’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, starring among others Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, which received all over decent reviews. Another pre-screening favourite is ‘Only God Forgives’, where director Nicholas Winding Refn and actor Ryan Gosling have teamed up again, creating massive anticipation after their last team effort blew the cinematic world away with ‘Drive’. Another movie I’ve already been looking forward to for a while is Steven Soderberg’s ‘Behind the Candelabra’.

Besides the aforementioned, there aren’t many titles I recognised prior to the festival, with the exceptions of ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’, which I’ve heard of because it’s Tom Hiddelston’s newest project, and ‘Inside Llewelyn Davies’ by the Coen brothers, which should also be a given as one to watch. The director behind the hard-hitting ‘A Separation’, Asghar Farhadi, is back with ‘Le Passé’ or ‘The Past’, which is expected to be another intense, lowkey drama. Among the smaller “unknowns” are ‘Fruitvale Station’, which did well at the Sundance Festival, ‘The Selfish Giant’, which is supposedly a modern take on the short story by Oscar Wilde, and the French ‘L’Inconnu Du Lac’ or ‘Strangers by the Lake’, a movie which is sure to divide the audience and which is almost guaranteed not to get screening time in Norwegian cinemas due to its pornographic tendencies, unless Cinemateket steps up to the challenge, as they did with ‘Laurence Anyways’ last year.

So, that’s something to start off with after the first four days of the festival. With a week still remaining, there is bound to be a lot of on-screen goodness yet to come.

At last, here is the first trailer for zombie blockbuster ‘World War Z‘, which is due for cinema release in June (July in Norway). Starring Brad Pitt, the director will be Marc Forster and the screenplay is by Damon Lindelof. There are some good reasons to be optimistic about this film, and some genuine causes for skepticism.

Pros:

  • Marc Forster has directed one of my favourite films, ‘Finding Neverland‘ (2004), as well as a handful of other beautifully directed titles, such as ‘Stranger Than Fiction‘ (2006), ‘Stay‘ (2005) and ‘Monster’s Ball‘ (2001), all of which I can recommend. He has a firm grip on all of these: the pacing, comedic timing and emotional triggers are remarkably fine-tuned. Through these, Forster has proved that he masters a great variety of genres and visual expressions.
  • The film is based on great source material, the highly acclaimed novel ‘World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War’, by Max Brooks.
  • Anything with Brad Pitt in it is worth spending a couple of hours on. His performances are always enjoyable even if all his films are not.
  • One of my mates have worked on the special effects, which as always leaves me excited to see the result.

Cons:

  • Forster is also behind the messy and tedious ‘Quantum of Solace‘, the disappointing follow-up to the excellent ‘Casino Royale‘ which rebooted the James Bond franchise in 2006. This is cause for some serious worry. As great as he may be in his dealings with drama, dark comedy and mystery, he has shown he has major difficulties with large-scale action. This worry is strengthened by rumours of weeks of reshooting scenes from ‘Z‘ due to Forster’s difficulty finding the film’s “voice”.
  • Forster and Pitt (who is also the producing the film) have allegedly been severely at odds during filming.
  • To every good apocalyptic blockbuster, there are at least half a dozen bad ones.
  • Well, frankly, the trailer doesn’t exactly blow me away.

What do you think, is ‘World War Z’ worth getting excited about? Leave a comment below.