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Cannes 2013: Fremaux aims to “surprise” and “reassure”

Some 1,858 features were submitted to the festival this year. Surprises include first Dutch picture in competition in 38 years. 

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Speculation over Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection reached its usual fever pitch this week but aspects of artistic director Thierry Fremaux’s freshly announced line-up confounded even the shrewdest of festival watchers.

The selection announced this morning [Apr 18] contains films rumoured unready, one picture reportedly not available for competition and a host of un-tipped outsider titles.

“We’ve aimed for a selection which is joyous and generous, full of first-timers as well as confirmed auteurs, re-discoveries and surprises… you’ll find people whose presence will surprise you and others whose presence will reassure. There are lots of filmmakers who arrive in Official Selection for the first time and plenty who have presented films at Cannes before,” said Fremaux in his opening remarks at the announcement conference taking place at the UGC Normandie Cinema on the Champs Elysées in central Paris.

He noted that 1,858 features had been submitted to all the sections between June 1, 2012 and April 17, against 1,670 in 2009 and 1,769 last year. 

Competition

Just two of the 19 films in competition are by former Palme d’Or winners: Steven Soderbergh’s colourful Liberace bio-pic Behind the Candelabra and Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur. Polanski’s 1971 Jackie Stewart bio-doc Weekend of a Champion will also be presented in a special screening.

Soderbergh, who won the Palme d’Or in 1989 for Sex, Lies and Videotapes, had not originally wanted Behind the Candelabra to screen in competition, revealed Fremaux.

“Steven wanted to screen out of competition but we convinced him to show the film in competition for the quality of his work and also because, as you know he has announced it is his final film… given that his first feature was shown and feted here with the Palme d’Or we thought it was another good reason to invite it to competition. We said, ‘Say yes!’ and his reply was ‘Yes’,” recounted Fremaux with a smile.

Soderbergh and Polanski are joined by a host of films by other competition returnees: Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives; Ethan and Joel Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis; Arnaud Desplechin’s Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian); James Gray’s freshly re-titled The Immigrant (formerly Lowlife); Chadian Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Grigris; Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin; Takashi Miike’s Shield of Straw; Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, which had also been reported unfinished;and Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza.

“We saw Nebraska, the day before yesterday (April 16). Alexander just didn’t know if it would be ready in time,” Fremaux told ScreenDaily after the news conference.

Fremaux was unapologetic over the high percentage of so-called Cannes ‘habitués’.

“People always comment that there are a lot of ‘habitués’ in the selection,” he said. “It’s true, and even I don’t really like the term ‘habitués’ all I can say is that we love having these so-called ‘habitués’, these important auteurs, come back with their latest artistic works.”

Francois Ozon also returns to competition for the first time in a decade - since Swimming Pool in 2003 - with Jeune et Jolie.

Surprise inclusions

Tunisian-born French director Abdellatif Kechiche will compete for the first time with La Vie d’Adele (previously called in English Blue is the Warmest Colour). The film was a favourite on pre-Cannes wish lists but the French press had reported the film would not be ready in time for the festival.

Another surprise inclusion was Dutch director Alex Van Warmerdam’s Borgman – the first feature from the Netherlands to make it into competition in 38 years.

Another unexpected competition first-timer is Mexican director Amat Escalante’s Heli – the filmmaker won the Fipresci prize for Sangre when it screened in Un Certain Regard in 2005.

Other untipped contenders include Arnaud Desplechin’s Michael Kohlhaas and Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi’s A Castle in Italy.

Strong female presence in Un Certain Regard

Bruni-Tedeschi is the only female director in competition although there are six women filmmakers in Un Certain regard including Sofia Coppola who will open the selection on May 16 with The Bling Ring.

“There are seven women in total and for me Un Certain Regard is an important as the Competition,” commented Fremaux. “It’s clear there’s a problem but only highlighting it during Cannes is not the solution.”

The other five female-directed films are: Claire Denis’ Les Salauds; Italian actress-turned director Valeria Golino’s Miele; Flora Lau’s Hong-Kong-set Bends; Quebecois Chloé Robichaud’s Sarah Prefere La Course; and Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central..

“Claire Denis has not been in Cannes for some time so we are happy to have her back,” commented Fremaux of the director who was last in Cannes with Trouble Every Day.

Un Certain Regard also features Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulouf’s clandestinely-filmed Anonymous, which was delivered to the festival just two days ago, and Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s West Bank shot Omar.

“It’s an intense insight into the current situation by a filmmaker who wants to carry on exercising his profession and who also loves his country,” said Fremaux of Rasoulouf’s feature.

The selection also includes Filippino Lav Diaz’s Norte, Hanggananan Ng Kasaysayan, which at four hours long could be one of the longest films to ever screen in Official Selection.

“He usually makes films which are five or six hours long but don’t worry - this one is just four hours,” quipped Fremaux.

Out of Competition

Outside of the key competition and Un Certain Regard, J.C. Chandor’s Robert Redford-starring All is Lost and Guillaume Canet’s English-language debut will screen out of competition Blood Ties.

“We’re expecting Robert Redford in Cannes for the first time in an extremely long time and we’re happy that we’ll be able to make this tribute to Robert,” said Fremaux, contradicting the actor’s recent announcement that he would not be attending the festival. 

Speaking after the conference, Fremaux reiterated to ScreenDaily that Redford would be present: “For us he is coming.”

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