What's in Competition at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival?

"Dogman" | © Archimede/Le Pacte
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Film Editor
Updated: 8 May 2018
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The main Competition section of this year’s Cannes festival (May 8-19) has found places for films by Jean-Luc Godard, Jafar Panahi, Jia Zhangke, Spike Lee, Hirokazu Kore-eda, and Nuri Bilge Ceylan, but is otherwise short on heavyweight auteurs—especially when it comes to women. Here’s a glimpse at the 21 titles that found favor with Thierry Frémaux and his colleagues on the selection committee.

Asako I & II (Japan)

Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s romantic drama is yet another film influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Erika Karata plays a 21 year old who, looking for her vanished lover (Masahiro Higashide), encounters his exact double. It is based on the novel by Tomoka Shibasaki.

Ash Is Purest White (China, France, Japan)

Zhao Tao stars in her husband Jia Zhangke’s fifth Cannes film, the story of a dancer who intervenes in a mob battle to protect her hoodlum boyfriend and gets a five-year prison sentence. On release, she sets out to find him. Martial arts are said to figure in the movie.

Zhao Tao in “Ash Is Purest White”
© MK2 Films

En Guerre (At War) (France)

Reunited with director Stéphane Brize, Vincent Lindon plays a union leader trying to save jobs when a factory is threatened with closure. Expect a lean social realist drama in the vein of Brize’s The Measure of a Man (2015), which brought Lindon the Cannes Best Actor prize.

Ayka (The Little One) (Russia, Germany, Poland)

Ayka is about a Kyrgyz emigrant who lives and works illegally in Moscow. Unable to support her newborn, she abandons it in hospital. Then her maternal yearnings surface and she sets out to find the baby. Director Sergey Dvortsevoy made Tulpan (2008), which won the Un Certain Regard prize in 2008.

BlacKkKlansman (USA)

Spike Lee’s film—his first to play in the Competition since Jungle Fever (1991)—tells the true story of Colorado Springs police officer Ron Stallworth, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and became the leader of his local chapter; he went public with the story in 2006. Based on Stallworth’s book, the movie stars John David Washington (Denzel’s son) in the lead role. Adam Driver plays a Jewish undercover cop. Jordan Peele (Get Out (2017)) is one of the producers.

Adam Driver and John David Washington in “BlacKkKlansman”
© Focus Features

Burning (South Korea)

Poetry (2010) director Lee Chang-dong returns to Cannes with a mystery thriller. Based on Haruki Murakami’s short story Barn Burning, it tells of a woman (Jeon Jong-seo) who disappears, the rich boyfriend she met in Tangier, and the former neighbor—a deliveryman and aspiring novelist—who considers her the love of his life.

Capharnaüm (Lebanon, France)

In the eponymous Palestinian fishing village, a youth sets out to sue his parents for bringing him into the world. The third feature directed by Nadine Labaki, Capharnaüm is one of only three Competition films directed by a woman this year. Like Labaki’s Caramel (2007) and Where Do We Go Now? (2011), both previous Cannes entries, it’s based on a story by Jihad Hojeily.

Cold War (Poland, France, UK)

Pawel Pawlikowski reteams with his Ida (2013) actresses Agata Kulesza (who played the aunt) and Joanna Kulig (who played the singer) for this drama about an ill-starred love affair in Stalin-era Poland.

Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot in “Cold War”
© MK2 Films

Dogman (Italy, France, UK)

Italian director Matteo Garrone returns to the festival with a true-life “urban Western” involving a cocaine-using dog groomer and his bullying boxer friend; it’s set in Rome’s suburban gangland in the ’80s. Garrone’s Gomorrah (2008) and Reality (2012) both won the Cannes Grand Prix; his last Cannes entry, the Gilliam-esque fairytale gem Tale of Tales, can currently be found on Netflix.

© Archimede/Le Pacte

Everybody Knows (France, Spain, Italy)

This year’s Cannes opener is a missing-girl thriller starring Penélope Cruz, who returns to her Spanish village from Buenos Aires for a wedding. Javier Bardem co-stars. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi‘s last two films, The Past (2013) and The Salesman (2016), also played in the Competition.

Les Filles du soleil (Girls of the Sun) (France)

Golshifteh Farahani (Paterson (2016)) plays the commander of a Kurdish women’s battalion struggling to liberate its town from Isis forces. This factually based war film sounds like a far cry from writer-director Eva Husson’s second feature, the 2015 teen sex-and-drugs exposé Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story).

Golshifteh Farahani in “Girls of the Sun”
© Proximus

Le Livre d’image (The Image Book) (France)

Cannes may have rejected several top directors this year, but 87-year-old Jean-Luc Godard makes the Competion cut with his latest essay film. Here’s what it’s about: “Nothing but silence. Nothing but a revolutionary song. A story in five chapters like the five fingers of a hand.” Less obscurely, it addresses the modern Arab world and was shot in Tunisia and other countries. It has no actors but there is a narrator.

Knife + Heart (France)

In 1979, a Parisian gay porn producer (Vanessa Paradis) who’s making a legitimate film is forced to go after the serial killer who targets her cast. Expect a neon-lit wild ride from director Yann Gonzales (You and the Night (2013)).

Vanessa Paradis in “Knife + Heart”
© CG Cinéma

Lazzaro Felice (Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland)

Information is scant on Alice Rohrwacher’s Lazzaro Felice, but it’s reportedly about a social outcast who can travel through time. It was partially filmed in the central Italian countryside near the scenic ancient village of Civita di Bagnoregio. The cast includes Sergi Lopez (Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)) and Nicoletta Braschi (Down by Law (1986), Life Is Beautiful (1997)).

Shoplifters (Japan)

The latest from Competition veteran Hirokazu Kore-eda is the story of father and son shoplifters who find a little girl freezing to death and bring her into their poverty-stricken family. Then complications ensue. The cast includes Lily Franky (from Kore-eda’s 2013 Jury Prize-winner Like Father, Like Son), Sakura Andô, and Mayu Matsuoka.

© 2018 Fuji Television Network/Gaga Corporation/AOI Pro. Inc.

Plaire, aimer et courir vite (Sorry Angel) (France)

Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), an optimistic young Breton literature student, meets a world-weary 39-year-old Parisian writer (2013 Stranger in the Lake’s Pierre Deladonchamps). “Jacques and Arthur will like each other,” says the sales pitch. “Just like in a lovely dream. Just like in a sad story.” Illness plays a part in this rueful love story. Director Christopher Honoré is back in Cannes for the first time since Love Songs played in the Competition in 2007.

Vincent Lacoste and Pierre Deladonchamps in “Sorry Angel”
© MK2 Films

Leto (Summer) (Russia-France)

Summer is the story of a love triangle involving two real-life early ’80s Leningrad rock stars, Mike Naumenko—the Zoopark leader who died mysteriously at the age of 36 in 1991—and Kino cofounder Viktor Tsoi, who died in a car collision aged 28 in 1990. Director Kirill Serebrennikov (The Student (2016)) won’t attend Cannes since he is under house arrest on charges of of embezzlement.

Three Faces (Iran)

Despite being banned by his government from making films, Jafar Panahi has continued to write and direct by whatever means necessary. His latest tells the story of three Iranian actresses: a pre-Revolution performer who was banned from acting, a contemporary star, and a young girl who wants to attend a drama conservatory. It is Panahi’s first Competition film.

“Three Faces”
© Memento Films

Under the Silver Lake (USA)

In David Robert Mitchell’s surrealistic film noir, Andrew Garfield plays a sweet-natured, directionless young man who goes in search of a missing neighbor (Riley Keough). Mitchell’s influences include Kiss Me Deadly (1995), Chinatown (1974), The Long Goodbye (1973), and Mulholland Dr (2001). Here’s guessing there’s a touch of Inherent Vice (2014) in there, too. Mitchell previously directed The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010) and the well-received It Follows (2014).

The Wild Pear Tree (Turkey-France)

The latest drama by Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan concerns an aspiring writer who returns to his country village and invests his all (including his money) into getting published, only to be undone by his father’s debts. Ceylan’s last film, Winter Sleep (2014), won the Palme d’Or but isn’t likely to achieve classic status. His Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) tied for the Grand Prix but might have reasonably expected to win the top honor.

Yomeddine (Judgement Day) (Egypt-Austria)

The Competition’s sole directorial debutant this year is Egyptian political filmmaker Abu Bakr Shawky. His first feature, also known as Judgement Day, is about Coptic leper Beshay and his orphaned apprentice Shika, who leave their colony and travel by donkey cart through Egypt to locate their families. The film is based on real characters Shawky discovered at the Abu Zaabal leper colony when making his 2009 documentary short The Colony.

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