Cannes 2013: Coen brothers, Alexander Payne bound for film festival

The Cannes Film Festival is making a statement at this year’s gathering: We still really like Americans.

The main competition will feature four directors from the U.S. -- Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”) Joel and Ethan Coen (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), James Gray (“The Immigrant”) and Steven Soderbergh (“Behind the Candelabra”) -- equaling last year’s strong total of North American helmers in competition.

In addition, new movies from U.S. filmmakers James Franco, Sofia Coppola, James Toback and J.C. Chandor will play in other sections. Longtime Hollywood director-in-exile Roman Polanski will bring two movies to the festival, including his new picture “Venus in Fur,” which will play in competition. And the competition jury will of course be overseen by a preeminent American filmmaker in Steven Spielberg.

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A healthy dose of U.S. and European stars will also walk the red carpet on the Croisette, including Ryan Gosling and Mila Kunis (for their international collaborations with filmmakers Nicolas Winding Refn and Guillaume Canet, respectively), Robert Redford (Chandor’s “All Is Lost”), Franco (“As I Lay Dying”), Carey Mulligan (“Davis” and festival opener “The Great Gatsby”), Marion Cotillard (“The Immigrant” and “Blood Ties”), Justin Timberlake (“Davis”) and Matt Damon (“Candelabra”).


Movies from U.S. helmers Woody Allen (“Blue Jasmine”) and Lee Daniels (“The Butler”), which had been speculated about as potential Cannes entries, won’t be making the voyage. Daniels was among the quartet of North American directors with movies at the 2012 edition, joining David Cronenberg, Jeff Nichols and Wes Anderson.

The festival’s Thierry Fremaux and Gilles Jacob made the announcement of the 2013 festival titles -- 19 in competition, 14 in Un Certain Regard and a handful of special and out-of-competition screenings -- at a Paris news conference Thursday, releasing them via Twitter one title at a time.

The inclusion of Payne’s “Nebraska,” a father-son road-trip movie that Paramount Pictures will release in the fall, is a surprise; many observers had expected the film, which stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte, to wait for the late-summer festivals. Equally of note is Soderbergh’s “Behind the Candelabra,” starring Damon and Michael Douglas in the movie about flamboyant musician Liberace. It is to air on HBO later this year and was a question mark for a festival berth. If the director is to be believed, the movie could be his last work for a while as he contemplates a retirement from cinema.

The Coens are making their first trip to Cannes since 2007, when “No Country for Old Men” established itself as an Oscar frontrunner on the Croisette en route to a best picture win and U.S. blockbusterdrom. Their new film, which stars Mulligan, Timberlake and Oscar Isaac, has a softer edge -- it follows the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s and is loosely based on the lives of Dave Von Ronk and other music figures of that era.

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The American director Gray, who served on the competition jury in 2009, will come to Cannes with his first movie in five years. “The Immigrant” (nee “Low Life”), a period story acquired by the Weinstein Co. about Ellis Island and vaudeville performers, reunites Gray with longtime star Joaquin Phoenix and will seek to further solidify Phoenix’s comeback after his Oscar-nominated turn in “The Master” this year.

Phoenix was last in Cannes with a new movie five years ago when he starred in Gray’s “Two Lovers,” several years before his faux foray into a hip-hop career. Jeremy Renner co-stars in “The Immigrant” with Phoenix and Cotillard.

Gray also wrote and executive produced “Blood Ties,” French actor-director Guillaume Canet’s 1970s Brooklyn-set crime drama featuring Kunis, Clive Owen and Canet’s significant other Cottilard; that film will screen out of competition in Cannes.

Meanwhile, Polanski’s adaptation of David Ives’ play “Venus in Fur,” starring wife Emmanuelle Seigner, will play in competition, while his never-released-in-the-U.S. Formula 1 documentary, “Week End of a Champion,” will get a special-screening slot. That film, about the 1970s driver Jackie Stewart, was recently bought by Brett Ratner’s documentary company and will finally be given a U.S. release courtesy of Netflix.

Also receiving a special-screening slot is Stephen Frears’ 1960s tale “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” which like “Candelabra” will debut on HBO. In one of the more meta turns one can imagine, Toback"s “Seduced and Abandoned” will be given a special screening. The documentary centers on Toback’s and Alec Baldwin’s past efforts to come to Cannes to try to get a different film made. Audiences will sit in a theater with the pair on the Croisette watching the pair try to get a movie made on the Croisette.

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“All Is Lost,” meanwhile, will screen out of competition. Directed by “Margin Call” helmer Chandor, the movie stars Redford as a man on a sinking boat and could be dubbed the wordless “Life of Pi,” with Redford not speaking throughout the entire movie.

And the festival will offer an “homage” to Jerry Lewis when it premieres “Max Rose,” his first starring role (or role of any kind) in 18 years; he plays a recently widowed jazz pianist in Daniel Noah’s new movie.

High on fest-watchers’ list is “Only God Forgives,” Nicolas Refn’s Thailand-set revenge drama starring Gosling and Kristen Scott Thomas. The film is the latest collaboration between Gosling and the Danish director, whose “Drive” came away as the hit of the festival two years ago before becoming a genre hit in the U.S. “Only God Forgives” will be released by the Weinstein Co.'s Radius label on July 19.

Also on the international front, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi will bring his follow-up to 2012 Oscar foreign-language winner “A Separation” to the Croisette, though the competition title, “Le Passe,” is shot in Paris and features French actresses such as Berenice Bejo. It is not thought to contain a heavy dose of Iranian themes.

As usual, Cannes will take a pretty thorough spin around the globe. Some notable foreign directors in competition include the Chad-born filmmaker Mahamat Saleh Haroun (“Grisgris”), the so-called sixth-generation Chinese director Jia Zhangke (“Tian Zhu Ding”) and Dutch painter-filmmaker Alex Van Warmerdam (“Borgman”).

Japan will be well represented in competition, with films from Hirokazu Koreeda (“Soshite Chichi Ni Naru”) and Takashi Miike (“Wara No Tate”). Cannes will also feature its characteristically strong French delegation, including Francois Ozon (“Jeune et Jolie”), Arnaud Desplechin (“Jimmy P.”) and Arnaud Despallieres (“Michael Koolhaas”) in competition.

And in a turn that will no doubt stir conversation, the main competition features only one female director, Italian Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi (“Un Chateau En Italie”). The Un Certain Regard section, on the other hand, includes a panoply of female helmers, such as Valeria Golino (“Miele”), Claire Denis (“Les Salauds”) Flora Lau (“Bends”), Sofia Coppola (“The Bling Ring”), Chloe Ribichaud (“Sarah Prefere La Course”) and Rebecca Zlotowski (“Grand Central”).

Also in that section are Franco’s William Faulkner adaptation “As I Lay Dying” and the new movie from the activist Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof (“Anonymous”), who in 2010 was sentenced to six years in jail for his political activities. Ryan Coogler’s Sundance darling “Fruitvale Station” will play in Un Certain Regard too as the Weinstein Co. readies a July release and fall awards run.

Opening with Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” and running May 15-26 this year in the coastal French town, the Cannes Film Festival is the globe’s most prestigious cinema gathering. In addition to unveiling new films from the world’s top directors and offering a marketplace for the sale of international rights, Cannes is an important marketing platform for many titles. A film’s reception and promotion there can be key to Oscar campaigns, with “The Artist” and “Amour” both beginning their successful awards run at Cannes in the past few years.

[For the Record, 5:29 a.m. PDT, April 18: An earlier version of this post stated that Matt Damon is playing Liberace in the film “Behind the Candelabra.” Michael Douglas plays Liberace in the film, and Damon plays the entertainer’s lover.]


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