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Nine Films to Anticipate at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival

Aftersun

As, just before heading to the airport, I post this brief list of films we at Filmmaker are especially excited to see at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, cinema’s most prestigious annual event is already having something of a bumpy opening, with a new (for those who didn’t experience its debut in last year’s low-key mid-pandemic edition) ticketing system returning all manner of “504 Gateway” errors and obscure messages, some of which contain their own brutal poetry: “Validation of viewstate failed… Purpose, purpose…” (Press has seen some alleviation as those badges are now redirected to a new server, while market and general festival attendees are still experiencing problems.) Hoping the films are better than the tech — and that we get to see them — are Vadim Rizov, Blake Williams and me, who will all be reporting on the festival in these pages in the days ahead. With the festival’s uncharacteristic opening night (Michel Hazanavicius’s zombie satire Final Cut) underway, here are nine films we’re suggesting you keep your eyes out for.

Scarlet. Transplanting Jack London’s novel to the 20th century, 2019’s Martin Eden raised the international profile of Italian director Pietro Marcello considerably. One enjoyably lowkey music documentary (For Lucio) and co-directed “state of the Italian nation” nonfiction dispatch (Futura) later, Marcello’s keenly anticipated narrative feature follow-up is adapted (loosely, all synoptic materials promise) from Russian writer Aleksandr Grim’s novella. The film, the opening night of this year’s Directors Fortnight, also marks his first time working in French. — Vadim Rizov

Aftersun. Memory’s ability to obscure or reveal anew — as well as to indict or possibly heal — is the subject of Charlotte Wells’s debut feature, Aftersun. The bare elements of the film’s story, which I summarized to close my profile of Wells in Filmmaker‘s 2018 25 New Faces list, are simple: “Aftersun, about a young father’s vacation trip with his daughter to a beachside resort, [is] inspired by her own vacation trips with her dad.” What’s missing from that synopsis is the film’s present-day perspective, which allows the innocence of a child’s holiday to be charged by a raft of turbulent meanings and emotions. Having directed a number of acclaimed shorts, including Blue Christmas, a brilliant depiction of a fractured family Christmas, and with Adele Romanski, Barry Jenkins and Mark Ceryak (from Pastel) and Amy Jackson (from Unified Theory) the producers on this debut, Wells is poised for major recognition when her film premieres in Critics Week. — SM

Pacifiction. We’re lucky to get even one shit stirrer in Cannes’ main competition these days, and Albert Serra’s latest, the longest new film that isn’t a miniseries in the entire festival, is a good bet to check that box—especially if it’s at all like an Albert Serra picture. Stars a grimacing Benoît Magimel as “a calculating man with flawless manners,” includes at least one shot of fluorescent lights, and appears to be set after the 18th century—this is new terrain for Serra, and one of the few films screening in this year’s Cannes that I can say I have to idea of what I’m in for. — Blake Williams

The Super 8 Years. Annie Ernaux spent years writing about thematically separated parts of her life in books on subjects from various love affairs to biographies of both her mother and father; the recently released Happening is adapted from her account of obtaining an illegal abortion in 1963 France. 2008’s The Years put together her entire life in one grandly synoptic picture, trading the first-person singular for the first-person plural. Now, in collaboration with her son David, Ernaux—an overtly cinephilic writer—co-directs her feature debut, which promises to re-examine her life from yet another vantage point: her family home movies. — VR

Showing Up. Following what’s arguably her best film, First Cow, Kelly Reichardt returns to Cannes with a new picture reuniting longstanding collaborators (including actor Michelle Williams, co-screenwriter Jon Raymond, DP Chris Blauvelt, producers Anish Savjani and Neil Kopp) along with new faces (actor Andre 3000) in what’s a relatively underpopulated mid-life drama subgenre: the “gallery artist prepping a new show” movie. One of my favorites within this category is the Richard Price-scripted Life Lessons, directed by Martin Scorsese, in which Nick Nolte’s neo-expressionist painter requires all forms of emotional drama to complete his final canvasses. I’m expecting something much different from Reichardt, who, with her patient gift for capturing process, is particularly suited for dramatizing the ways in which life and art intermingle. — SM

De Humani Corporis Fabrica. The fourth feature-length collaboration between Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor—two anthropologists-cum-artists whose collaborative work in the mediums of film, video, and photography have secured Harvards’ Sensory Ethnography Lab its own chapter in any future history of documentary film. Their seafaring Leviathan (2012) and, uh, gustatory Caniba (2017) approached the limits of what Laura U. Marks termed haptic visuality, i.e. the tactile connection that viewers forge with “the skin of the film,” and their latest, which focuses on five Parisian hospitals and the bodies therein, promises to burrow beneath said skin quite literally. It ought to be nothing if not sensual, and there will undoubtedly be blood. — BW

Courts métrages en compétition. Short films are always relegated to lower profiles, but Cannes’ sole program dedicated to new short films not made by student filmmakers (whose work gets four separate shorts programs) can reliably contain promising works from emerging global filmmakers who will make significant work in the years to come. This year’s edition comes with a marquee item: a new short film from Bi Gan, his first work since 2018’s half-in-3D Long Day’s Journey into Night.– VR

Christophe… Définitivement. Between recording the music for Bruno Dumont’s stellar France (2021) and that film’s premiere in last year’s Cannes main competition, French chanteur Christophe passed away due to complications with COVID-19. Video artists Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Ange Leccia offer, now, this portrait of the pop musician return to stage performances in 2002 after a 28-year hiatus, composed from what appears to be rapturously saturated video documentation. Christophe’s vocals are one thing, but 10 seconds looking at Leccia’s 1991 video La Mer was enough for this to became essential. It’ll be projected at the festival’s Cinéma de la Plage, just after sunset; I’d pray for no rain but it probably wouldn’t be out of line. — BW

God’s Creatures. In writing about Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits for Filmmaker‘s Spring, 2016 cover story, I called the microbudget debut “authentically joyful and unexpectedly strange,” hailing its resistance to over-explaining its narrative mysteries. I also noted its “supportive, free-flowing, collaborative” production model, in which certain set hierarchies were disrupted. So, six years later, it’s great to see Holmer back, this time directing alongside Saela Davis, who edited The Fits, and again dealing with a mystery of motivation and intention within a small community. — SM

Irma Vep. Olivier Assayas’s 1996 Irma Vep, in which a struggling director, Rene Vidal, attempts to reboot his career with a remake of Louis Feuillade’s silent classic, Les Vampires, and with a fish-out-of-water Hong Kong star (Maggie Cheung) in the lead role, was both a satire of the French film industry as well as, in parts, an experimental ode to young cinephilia in general. I remember the ripple of excitement when this bold, cheeky and even dreamy film, sandwiched between two other Assayas classics (Cold Water and Late August, Early September) landed in the States, its punch lines resonant as well within the U.S. indie scene. So, it’s a jolt to realize that, now, in 2022, Irma Vep is, at its base level, “IP” — an existing property ready to be re-envisioned as an HBO original and today’s streaming landscape. (It rolls out one episode a week beginning March 6.) Among other things, that means instead of a 99-minute feature it’s a nearly eight-hour series. Actor-director Vincent Macaigne replaces Jean-Pierre Leaud as Vidal, and the set-interloper is this time Alicia Vikander, playing an American blockbuster star. In his essay “Cinema in the Present Tense,” Assayas wrote, “When trying to identify the place of a reformulation of cinephilia today, it is impossible not to situate it on the internet and in the latter’s redefinition of both the viewing modes of cinema and the way in which we move through its history.” So it will be fascinating to see how Assayas’s characteristic deep-thinking and witty self-reflexivity will run through what I’m sure will be a very funny take on the travails of auteur, er, content in 2022. — SM

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