Cannes had some excellent films both in and out of the main competition this year, and while films like The Dead Don’t Die have already had a wide release, many films aren’t being released (or at least released worldwide) for many months. Here are the ones to keep an eye on for when they do finally make it to cinemas.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Celine Sciamma’s 18th century gothic romance was one of the very, very best films of Cannes 2019. Based on the common upper class ritual of a young aristocratic woman having a portrait painted of her to entice rich prospective husbands, it follows a female painter who has been tasked with covertly painting a mysterious young lady who won’t sit for a portrait. It uses the framework of a spooky fairy tale woven around a love story perhaps even more effectively than Phantom Thread. Sciamma and her cinematographer Claire Mathon somehow create a softness that makes the characters themselves look like 18th century paintings. The film blossoms into a beautiful and heart-wrenching story that leaves us gasping for breath by the end. The final few seconds of the film are, in this writer’s opinion, some of the best in world cinema this century. Released in France on 18 September with a limited release in the US on 6 December, there’s no UK release date yet, although the distribution rights have been snapped up by Curzon Artificial Eye.
Parasite won the Palme D’Or at Cannes, the first Korean film to do so. The first half of the film appears to be genuinely a laugh-out-loud comedy, and yet pierces issues of class and inequality as successfully as the more blood-soaked second half. It is biting satire, with all the wit and depth of Luis Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. This film, though, focuses on a poor family, down on their luck in a basement apartment, as they systematically infiltrate a hugely wealthy upper class family by each becoming hired help within the home. Bong Joon-Ho deftly balances the comedy and violence so that it says more about society than Snowpiercer and Okja combined. Parasite has already been hugely successful in the domestic box office, but will be released in the US on 19 October.
Matthias et Maxime
Dolan’s return to Cannes isn’t his best ever, but it’s nonetheless a lovely film. It does something I have rarely seen an art film do – it takes high school comedies like American Pie and blends them with art house cinema. It has some classic Dolan melodrama, but also some of his best comedy. Supporting characters like their friend’s pretentious Anglophile sister and a sleazy young American business executive make for laugh-out-loud scenes that somehow also bite deep into the modern ‘OMG’ zeitgeist. There’s no release date yet for Matthias et Maxime internationally, but it does have a Canadian release on October 9th.
La Femme de mon Frère (A Brother’s Love)
This Quebecois film was screened as part of Un Certain Regard as opposed to the Official Competition. Monia Chokri (longtime collaborator with fellow Canadian Xavier Dolan) directed this wonderfully offbeat comedy with such an assured visual style that it is not unreasonable to think she could not obtain the stylistic heights of someone like the endlessly popular Wes Anderson, or indeed her compatriot Dolan. The visual style is genuinely stunning for large parts of the movie, like the opening shot of Sophia dropping her thesis papers out the front door of a fictional university in Montreal as the camera slowly zooms out in perfect symmetry. It translates the hipster-ness of Montreal onto the screen extremely well, but consequently may not be to the taste of everyone. It’s already been released in Canada, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will get an international release.
A Hidden Life
Terence Malick’s newest musing on life is often stunningly beautiful and certainly packs an emotional punch, but, almost inevitably with Malick, is about an hour too long. Don’t let this put you off even if you aren’t a die-hard Malick fan. There’s enough there that is stunning to make the meandering worth it. Set in Sankt Radegund, a remote village in Upper Austria, through his wide angle lens Malick tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector who refused to fight for the Nazis, despite the punishment of death. A Hidden Life was picked up by Fox Searchlight for $14m after its Cannes premiere, and will be released on December 13th.
“The Traitor” has all the glamour of a crime epic, but Italian New Wave icon Marco Bellocchio’s film is more interested in the legal aspects of the story than the action, although it does have enough of that too. It follows the true story of Tommaso Buscetta, a Sicilian mafia boss who decided to collaborate with Italian authorities to put away several prominent capos, an unprecedented move that proved just as controversial with the Sicilian people as it did inflammatory with the mafia. The film balances mafia style with courtroom drama, and it does so pretty successfully, with a particularly beautiful segment in Rio de Janeiro. It never quite reaches the heights of the the greatest mafia movies, but it does provide a fascinating insight into the first mafia informant in Sicily, and, like Buschetta did himself, paints a comprehensive narrative of the real workings of the infamous Sicilian mafia.