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Cannes 2019: Ten films to watch
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Port Authority (Credit: RT Features)
As the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival opens on the Croisette, Rebecca Laurence picks a selection of must-see films from the world’s greatest film competition.
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Parasite

Parasite (Credit: CJ Entertainment)

Parasite (Credit: CJ Entertainment)

Bong Joon-ho’s previous films – dystopian climate-change sci-fi Snowpiercer (2013) and dystopian animal rights drama Okja (2017) – wrapped up social commentary in satire and fantasy. His latest is a tragicomedy that explores the power dynamics between two families who live in very different social circumstances.

The premise is reminiscent of fellow South Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s psychological thriller Burning, which was a hit at last year’s Cannes. But Bong Joon-ho has said he thinks Parasite may be too localised to be “100% understood” by foreign audiences. And yet the differences between the two families, he said, “mirror the universal gap between the rich and the poor”.

Released 30 May in South Korea and 5 June in France

Rocketman

Rocketman (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Rocketman (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Dexter Fletcher is swiftly becoming the go-to director for 1970s-based pop biopics – while Rocketman was in pre-production, Fletcher was brought in to complete Bohemian Rhapsody after its director Bryan Singer was fired. That film was criticised for shying away from a full depiction of Queen singer Freddie Mercury’s sexuality; it’s unlikely the same will be said of Rocketman, which has an R-rating. “This was important to Elton,” Paramount president Wyck Godfrey told The Hollywood Reporter. “Elton’s life is an R-rated life.”

Described as a fantasy-style version of John’s early years, it stars Taron Egerton as the singer and Jamie Bell as long-term collaborator Bernie Taupin, while Bodyguard’s Richard Madden plays John’s manager, John Reid. Showing out of competition, Rocketman will have its world premiere in Cannes.

On general release in late May/early June

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Credit: Arte France Cinéma)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Credit: Arte France Cinéma)

French writer-director Céline Sciamma made her name with a trio of lo-fi coming-of-age films: Water Lilies (2007), Tomboy (2011) and most recently the critically acclaimed 2014 drama Girlhood, which opened Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight and was described by The Observer’s Mark Kermode as “honest, empowering and electrifying”. 

A period piece, Portrait of a Lady on Fire marks a departure of sorts for Sciamma. It’s set in 18th-Century Brittany and stars Water Lilies’ Adèle Haenel as ‘reluctant bride-to-be’ Héloïse and Noémie Merlant as the artist commissioned to paint her portrait in secret. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the first of Sciamma’s films to be in competition for the Palme d’Or.

Released 18 September in France

The Dead Don’t Die

The Dead Don't Die (Credit: Focus Features)

The Dead Don't Die (Credit: Focus Features)

 

With a sequel to Zombieland, a prequel to Night of the Living Dead and a new Walking Dead spin-off in the works, the zombie genre is showing no signs of dying out. Even the Cannes Film Festival is getting in on the undead action, with beloved US indie director Jim Jarmusch’s star-studded feature The Dead Don’t Die.

Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver play a deadpanning, befuddled trio of small-town cops faced with an invasion of brain-eaters, while Tilda Swinton appears as a no-nonsense, samurai-wielding mortician with a Scottish accent. An eclectic and mouthwatering cast of actors includes regular Jarmusch collaborators and Coffee and Cigarettes alumni RZA, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, with Pop’s character billed as ‘Coffee Zombie’.

Released 13 June in Italy, 14 June in the US and 11 July in Brazil and Russia

Atlantics

Atlantique (Credit: Cinekap)

Atlantique (Credit: Cinekap)

Previously mixing acting (she starred in Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum) with short-film directing, Senegalese-French film-maker Mati Diop’s first full-length feature is based on her prize-winning short, Atlantiques. While that film focussed on Senegalese men attempting a life-threatening boat crossing from Africa to Europe in search of a better life, the full-length version tells the story from a different perspective.

It centres on Ada (Mame Bineta Sane), a young woman from Dakar whose lover disappears, thought to have tried to cross the Atlantic from Senegal to Europe. “After devoting a short film to the men who leave by sea, my current interest is in the women who stay behind, the ones who wait for a brother, a lover, a son to come back,” Diop said in a statement.

Diop, who is the niece of legendary Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty (Touki Bouki), is one of two directors of African descent (along with Malian director Ladj Ly) to compete for the Palme d’Or and the first black woman to be chosen in Cannes’ 72-year history.

Released 16 May in France

Port Authority

Port Authority (Credit: RT Features)

Port Authority (Credit: RT Features)

Like Ryan Murphy’s hit TV series Pose, Port Authority is set amid the LGBT subcultures of New York City’s ballroom scene. Fionn Whitehead stars as Paul, a newly arrived Midwesterner who falls for Wye (Leyna Bloom), a girl he sees voguing in the street. Wye introduces Paul to the ballroom community and love blossoms. But when Paul discovers that Wye is transgender, he’s forced to confront his feelings and the social pressures that threaten their relationship.

It’s New York director Danielle Lessovitz’s first time in the Cannes competition, with Port Authority – which was co-produced by Martin Scorsese – selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard category.

Released in May in France

Little Joe

Little Joe (Credit: The Bureau)

Little Joe (Credit: The Bureau)

In a creepy genetically modified-plant sci-fi from the Austrian director Jessica Hausner, the ‘Little Joe’ in question is a bright-red flower, cultivated to bring happiness to its owners. When Alice (Emily Beecham) takes it home for her son, they begin to realise the plant may not be as benevolent as it appears. Ben Whishaw, Lindsay Duncan and Kerry Fox co-star in the British-Austrian film that marks Hausner’s first appearance in Cannes’ official selection.

But Hausner is already a familiar face on the Croisette: she previously won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival with Lovely Rita (2001), and her films Hotel (2004) and Amour Fou (2014) also competed in Un Certain Regard, while Hausner served on its jury in 2016.

Released 17 May in France

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Credit: Columbia Pictures)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Credit: Columbia Pictures)

In what could be his penultimate film, Quentin Tarantino sets his sights on late 60s, Manson-era Hollywood, with Leonardo DiCaprio as washed-up actor Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt his stunt double Cliff Booth in the pair’s first appearance together on screen. Al Pacino, Tarantino regular Tim Roth and Dakota Fanning also feature, with Damian Lewis playing Steve McQueen and Margot Robbie as Dalton’s ill-fated neighbour, Sharon Tate.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will have its world premiere on the Croisette exactly 25 years after Tarantino’s Cannes competition debut in 1994; Pulp Fiction went on to win the Palme d’Or that year. The festival’s director Thierry Frémaux described Tarantino’s latest film as “a love letter to the Hollywood of [Tarantino’s] childhood, a rock music tour of 1969, and an ode to cinema as a whole”.

Released 26 July in Canada, the US and India

The Young Ahmed

The Young Ahmed (Credit: Diaphana Films)

The Young Ahmed (Credit: Diaphana Films)

Veteran Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s films are characterised by spare and naturalist social commentary, specifically working-class struggles and morality amid systemic failures. The brothers have twice won the Palme d’Or – for Rosetta (1999) and L’Enfant (2005) – and return this year with The Young Ahmed, about a Belgian teenager who plots to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist version of the Koran.

It’s their most controversial subject yet, and one of several contemporary social-commentary films in the Cannes competition this year, alongside Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You, Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables and Mati Diop’s Atlantics.

Released 22 May in France and Belgium, and 10 October in the Netherlands

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse (Credit: A24)

The Lighthouse (Credit: A24)

The Lighthouse is director Robert Eggers’ hotly anticipated second feature, marking his Cannes debut in the Directors’ Fortnight category: his first film was the critically acclaimed psychological horror, The Witch, which was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015.

Described by the film’s distributor A24 as a “fantasy horror story set in the world of old sea-faring myths”, The Lighthouse stars Cannes favourites Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, who look suitably craggy and grim-faced in an image released from the black-and-white film, which was shot on 35mm using vintage camera equipment.

Released in May in France

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