The ABCs of Cannes: From Antibes to “Zut alors!”

What to see and where to be seen at France’s ode to the cinema

By Diane Rommel

The ABCs of Cannes: From Antibes to “Zut alors!”
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11 May 2016

Two years ago this week, we sent two of our editors to the Cannes Film Festival (to learn how to say the word Cannes, among other things).

This year, we’re unfortunately tethered to our desks (“The horror!”).

But should you be in better circumstances — or just a curious Franco/cinephile — here’s an alphabetized rundown of everything to see, do and speak dismissively of (hey, when in Rome) at this year’s edition.

Antibes is seven miles west of Cannes. Stay here when you can’t stand being in Cannes one more minute.

Bridge of Spiesalums Steven Spielberg and Mark Rylance team up again on The BFG, an adaptation of the Roald Dahl story.

The Carlton is where everybody stays, if everybody you know is a publicist.

Belgian brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne made one of 2015’s best films with Two Days, One Night, starring Marion Cotillard as an overwhelmed employee forced to convince her co-workers to support her bid for continued employment — at the expense of forfeiting a pay raise. They’re back with The Unknown Girl.

Roger Ebert’s Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook is the festival’s defining text: “Elegant people emerge from their hotels in expensive formal wear, on their way to the official black-tie screenings. Narrow-eyed German film critics and French cineastes and American movie buffs crouch over their tables in the sidewalk cafes, watching them malevolently.”

If you (correctly) loved A Separation, you may have equally warm feelings for Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s new feature: The Salesman, about two Iraqis who move into an apartment in Tehran.

George Miller, fresh from the Cannes-fomented success of Mad Max: Fury Road, returns to serve on this year’s feature films jury, along with Mads Mikkelsen, Kirsten Dunst, Donald Sutherland, French director Arnaud Desplechin and Vanessa Paradis.

Remember the South Korean nightmare Oldboy? Its director, Park Chan-wook, advances his, let’s say, dystopian worldview with The Handmaiden, set during the Japanese occupation of Korea.

Ile Saint Honorat is the best place to get away from all the scenesters, execs, ingenues and hangers-on.

Jodie Foster will touch down for Money Monster, bringing her stars — Julia Roberts and George Clooney — with her.

Kitty is Chloe Sevigny’s first Cannes entry: a short based on a Paul Bowles story.

Liberia is the setting for the Sean Penn-directed The Last Face, which is definitely not going to be awkward for leading lady and Penn ex Charlize Theron, who plays the director of an aid organization.

Cristian Mungiu, whose brilliant 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days won the Palme d’Or in 2007, is back with the Transylvania-set Graduation.

Nicolas Winding Refn makes fitfully entertaining, if consistently innovative films — including, perhaps, the one he’ll bring here: The Neon Demon, starring Elle Fanning.

Oscar-winning documentarian Laura Poitras shifted the needle on the public’s opinion of Edward Snowden with Citizenfour; expect her to accomplish something similarly significant with the Julian Assange portrait Risk.

Pedro Almodovar returns with Julieta, which you probably did not guess was based on an Alice Munro collection of short stories.

“Quinzaine” (15) is the fancy way the French refer to the festival’s two-week (i.e. 15-day) duration.

Studio Ghibli completists will not want to miss the animated The Red Turtle, from Oscar-winning animator Michael Dudok de Wit; Ghibli’s Isao Takahata is artistic producer.

Sieranevada is another Romanian movie to watch, from the director of the exquisitely sad The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. The Romanian New Wave: it’s real, and it’s spectacular.

Terrorists will hopefully not attack the festival. Massively beefed-up security is meant to allay fears, given the warnings of Italian intelligence officials that extremist groups plan to attack European beach destinations.

Un Certain Regard screens artier fare: this year, look for Voir du Pays, by Breton sisters Delphine (a novelist) and Muriel (a filmmaker).

You may (read: should) remember Dutch director Paul Verhoeven for his nearly 30-year-old RoboCop. Now, he’s back with Elle, starring Isabelle Huppert as a video game executive who goes next-level in her effort to revenge a home invasion.

Woody Allen’s personal life is less commented-upon in France, which is perhaps one reason why his Cafe Society (with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart) will open the festival.

Xavier Dolan is lately a Cannes’s favorite, a prize winner for Mommy and I Killed My Mother (a coincidence, we’re sure), whose best-seen work is Adele’s “Hello” video — until, perhaps, the screening of his new film, It’s Only the End of the World, with Marion Cotillard and Léa Seydoux.

If the brutal The Yellow Sea interested you in the work of South Korean director Na Hong-jin, keep an eye on The Wailing, his out-of-competition detective story.

Zut alors! Ze restaurant, it is close! Termine!” is how Ebert ends his Cannes diary, in the company of Martin Scorsese. Really, it’s worth the time.  

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