Cannes 2021: the 10 essential films of the festival

Posted on Jul 5, 2021 at 10:00 AMUpdated on Jul 5, 2021, 10:16 AM

First notes: “Annette”, by Leos Carax (competition)

To him the honor to open the ball! Nine years after “Holy Motors”, the unpredictable Leos Carax is back in competition with “Annette”, a film presented at the opening of the Festival on Tuesday July 6 and which is released in theaters at the same time. In this fiction in the form of a musical comedy orchestrated by cult group Sparks, the filmmaker tells the tragic love story between a singer and a stand-up comedian, an expert in incorrect performances. At the heart of this hallucinatory film, two regular actors of the Festival: Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, who was notably applauded on the Croisette in 2018 for his performance in “BlacKkKlansman: I infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan”, directed by Spike Lee, this year’s president of the jury.

Smell of sulfur: “Benedetta”, by Paul Verhoeven (competition)

He will celebrate his 83 years on July 18, but his temperament remains that of a juvenile troublemaker … Always fascinated by the burning mysteries of carnal desire and by religious fanaticism, Paul Verhoeven is unleashed in “Benedetta”, a film devoted to Italian nun of the XVIIe century admired for its alleged miracles and vilified for its transgressive sexuality.

Virginie Efira (right) and Daphné Patakia in “Benedetta”, by Paul Verhoeven.

Virginie Efira (right) and Daphné Patakia in “Benedetta”, by Paul Verhoeven.© Guy Ferrandis

With his lesbian nun, embodied by the daring Virginie Efira, the provocative filmmaker of “Basic Instinct” and “Elle” once again shakes up taboos and stages a few “hot” and “sacrilegious” scenes which should do a lot. talk about them at the Cannes Film Festival … and elsewhere, since the film is released in theaters on Friday July 9, alongside its presentation in competition.

Second Palme? : “Les Olympiades”, by Jacques Audiard (competition)

Six years after winning the Palme d’Or with “Dheepan”, Jacques Audiard is aiming for a second consecration with “Les Olympiades”, a film inspired by three new graphics by American comic book author Adrian Tomine. As always with Audiard, a filmmaker who excels in the art of renewal, anything is possible, especially the best, with this chronicle on the amorous and friendly relationships between three young characters living in the XIIIe district of Paris.

“The Olympics”, by Jacques Audiard.© Shanna Besson

To give birth to this highly anticipated film, the filmmaker built his screenplay with Céline Sciamma and, among the actors of the “Olympiads”, he directs Noémie Merlant, the talented actress directed by the same Sciamma in “Portrait of the young girl in fire ” . Note that the actress also presents in Cannes, in a special screening, her first film as a director: “Mi iubita, mon amour”.

Queen Catherine: “While alive”, by Emmanuelle Bercot (out of competition)

Their collaboration is always synonymous with events and artistic success. After having directed Catherine Deneuve in “Elle va va” and in “La Tête haute”, a film presented at the opening of the Festival in 2015, Emmanuelle Bercot finds her favorite actress in “De son vivant”, presented out of competition. In this new film, the filmmaker tells the story of a man condemned by illness (Benoît Magimel) and his mother (Catherine Deneuve) who may learn to accept the unacceptable.

Catherine Deneuve and Benoît Magimel in “De son vivant”, by Emmanuelle Bercot.

Catherine Deneuve and Benoît Magimel in “De son vivant”, by Emmanuelle Bercot.© Laurent Champoussin / Les Films du kiosk

“Emancipation and struggle appeal to me more than inertia and victimization, likes to repeat Emmanuelle Bercot. I don’t shoot autobiographical films, but I put a lot of myself into each of my fictions. I happen to be a fighter, in all areas. “ There is no doubt that “In his lifetime” will once again testify to the filmmaker’s pugnacious temperament. The filming of the film was interrupted in November 2019 due to health concerns of Catherine Deneuve. To find this other fighter in majesty at the Cannes Film Festival is excellent news for all moviegoers.

The regulars: “Tre Piani”, by Nanni Moretti (competition)

Like the French Jacques Audiard (“Les Olympiades”) and the Thai Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Memoria”), he can claim to win a second Palme d’Or this year, twenty years just after that obtained for the admirable “Chambre du fils”. “.

Nanni Moretti and Margherita Buy (right) in “Tre piani”, by Nanni Moretti.

Nanni Moretti and Margherita Buy (right) in “Tre piani”, by Nanni Moretti.© Alberto Novelli

In “Tre Piani” Festival regular Nanni Moretti tries his hand at literary adaptation for the first time and, based on a novel by Israeli writer Eshkol Nevo, stages the troubled story of a Roman building where several inhabitants live together as best they can. At the heart of the cast, Moretti finds Margherita Buy, the unforgettable heroine of “Mia Madre”, a film presented in competition in 2015.

Sophie & François: “Everything went well”, by François Ozon (competition)

Among the seven French films in competition, including three signed by female directors (“La Fracture”, by Catherine Corsini, “Titane”, by Julia Ducournau, “Bergman Island”, by Mia Hansen-Løve), this one does not is not the least expected. In “Everything went well”, an adaptation of the homonymous and autobiographical story of Emmanuel Bernheim, François Ozon stages the heartbreaking story of a woman who must face the request of her father, diminished by illness, to help him die.

Sophie Marceau in “Everything went well”, by François Ozon.

Sophie Marceau in “Everything went well”, by François Ozon.© Carole Bethuel / Mandarin Production Foz

This black work gives the opportunity to the all too rare Sophie Marceau, absent from the screens for three years, to come back in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Alongside the actress, loyalists of François Ozon (Charlotte Rampling and Geraldine Pailhas) and a great actor in the skin of the father eager to end it: André Dussollier, a serious candidate for the interpretation prize.

A revenge: “Flag Day”, by Sean Penn (competition)

The boos and the deplorable critical reception reserved for “The Last Face”, presented in competition in 2016, did not prevent him from courageously coming back to try his luck… In “Flag Day”, Sean Penn stages the adventures of John Vogel , a bank robber and expert in counterfeit money who finds himself the object of a journalistic investigation carried out… by his daughter. This family story on the screen is also behind the scenes since Sean Penn, who plays the main role of the film, directs his daughter, Dylan Penn, in the skin of the journalist. “Flag Day” is one of three American films in the competition along with “The French Dispatch” by Wes Anderson and “Red Rocket” by Sean Baker.

The pen camera: “Ouistreham”, by Emmanuel Carrère (Directors’ Fortnight)

His latest book, “Yoga”, made the event during the September literary re-entry. Ten months later, the versatile Emmanuel Carrère presents a film on the Croisette: “Ouistreham”, a free adaptation of the autobiographical story of journalist Florence Aubenas (“Le Quai de Ouistreham”) who, during several months of investigation in Normandy, led the life of precarious workers forced to line up odd jobs for poverty wages.

Juliette Binoche (center), in

Juliette Binoche (center), in “Ouistreham” by Emmanuel Carrère. © Christine Tamalet

Presented at the opening of the Directors’ Fortnight, the film, played by Juliette Binoche in the lead role, is Emmanuel Carrère’s second attempt behind the camera, fifteen after “The Mustache”, an adaptation of his own novel.

First essay: “A young girl who goes well”, by Sandrine Kiberlain (Critics’ Week)

We were expecting Sandrine Kiberlain as an actress and in competition in “Another World”, Stéphane Brizé’s new film, which was ultimately not selected. We find her as a director in the Critics’ Week section with her first essay behind the camera: “A young girl who goes well”. Sandrine Kiberlain explains this infinitely personal fiction.

“The film evokes the life of a 20-year-old heroine, in 1942, she says. She has the energy of youth, grows up in a united family and wants to become an actress. But she is Jewish… The film evokes her carefree attitude before everything changes. My family experienced the horror and madness of that time because of their Jewish identity. These themes are still relevant today and unfortunately always will be. It is therefore appropriate to talk about it again and again … “ We look forward to discovering this necessary first film.

In struggle! : “High and strong”, by Nabil Ayouch (competition)

He tirelessly testifies to the political, social and religious tensions in his country, Morocco, and he sometimes had to suffer the wrath of censorship for having defied the prohibitions, in particular with “Much Loved”, his film on prostitution… Present for the first time in competition, Nabil Ayouch, in “Haut et fort”, features Anas, a former Moroccan rapper who, in a cultural center in Casablanca, encourages his students to break free from liberticidal traditions.

“High and strong”, by Nabil Ayouch.© Virginie Surdej / Amine Messadi

This film on hip-hop version Maghreb and on the fight against obscurantism has a priori serious assets to seduce the president of the jury Spike Lee. In the register of political cinema, it will also be advisable to watch closely the new fictions of the Iranian Asghar Farhadi (“A hero”) and of the Russian Kirill Serebrennikov (“The Petrovs, the flu etc.”), a long-time opponent. date to Vladimir Putin.

Three eagerly awaited actresses

Léa Seydoux: the omnipresent

Impossible to do without her at Cannes this year. In the running twice in the competition, Léa Seydoux, in radically different genres, gives of her person in “The French Dispatch”, by Wes Anderson, an unclassifiable comedy on the Hexagon of XXe century, and in “France”, by Bruno Dumont, a (very) free adaptation by Charles Péguy where the filmmaker paints the portrait of a journalist in rout. And that’s not all … Out of competition, in the new Cannes Première section, the actress, excuse me, also plays the main role of “Tromperie”, the new film by Arnaud Desplechin, an adaptation of the book namesake of Philip Roth.

Jodie Foster: the Palm of the heart

May 1976. A young 13-year-old actress climbs the steps of the Palace on the occasion of the presentation in competition of “Taxi Driver”, by Martin Scorsese, who will be honored with a Palme d’Or … Forty-five years later , Jodie Foster returns to Cannes to receive a hundred times deserved Palme d’Or honor which celebrates an actress, filmmaker and producer who, throughout her career, has demonstrated exemplary standards and independence in the landscape of American cinema. Good news for his admirers: the latest film shot by Jodie Foster, “Designated Guilty”, by Kevin Macdonald, on Guantanamo Hell (with Tahar Rahim), is released in theaters on July 14.

Charlotte Gainsbourg: a family affair

Music will be in the spotlight this year at the Festival with, among other things, the out-of-competition presentations of “The Velvet Underground”, Todd Haynes’ documentary on the legendary group, “Aline”, Valérie’s delirious film Lemercier on Céline Dion, and “Suprêmes”, Audrey Estrougo’s biopic on NTM… In a more intimate and whispered register, Charlotte Gainsbourg also creates the event by unveiling her first documentary: “Jane by Charlotte”. A portrait film devoted to his mother singer, Jane Birkin, which should enthrall the many admirers of the mother and the daughter.

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